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The U.S. Defense Rebalance to Asia

As Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., Monday, April 08, 2013

Thank you, John, for giving me the opportunity to be here at this wonderful institution that you run so ably.  I’ve learned so much from John throughout my career, and I have an even greater appreciation today, in my current role, for what John accomplished as Deputy Secretary of Defense.   John, you made it look easy.  Thank you for inviting me to be here.

I also want to thank Rick Inderfurth, CSIS’s chair for U.S.-India Policy Studies, who made this event possible and from whom I’ve learned so much about this region for so long.  Thank you, Rick.

As John mentioned, I did recently return from a trip to Asia that took me to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, where I attended the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue.   The purpose of my trip was to visit with our troops of course, who are performing superbly, and also to make sure that our forces, our allies, and our partners in the region understand that we are serious about our defense commitments there – that we are going to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

This was my second trip to Asia since President Obama announced a new strategic concept for the United States.  And it followed recent visits to the region by President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, and National Security Advisor Donilon – all of whom were emphasizing the very same thing: the central importance of the Asia-Pacific to the United States and our commitment to making sure that the region remains safe, secure, and prosperous.

Later this week, Secretary Kerry will be visiting Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing for the first time as Secretary of State.  And later this spring, Secretary Hagel, who as a Senator led the first U.S. congressional delegation to the Shangri-La Dialogue, will attend the Dialogue for the first time as Secretary of Defense. 

Our forces out there are superbly commanded by Sam Locklear and J.D. Thurman.

I say all of this because I think it’s important to point out how much time, energy, and intellectual capital, as well as resources we are investing in our rebalance to Asia – across the breadth of our government.  As the President has said, our investment in the region will continue to grow in the years to come.

Now in this connection, our rebalance to Asia is mostly a political and economic concept, not a military one.  But given my role as Deputy Secretary of Defense, I’m naturally going to concentrate on its security aspects today.

 

NORTH KOREA

First, I’d like to briefly address the evolving security situation on the Korean Peninsula:

The North Koreans have been determined of late to create a crisis atmosphere.  But just because they have a habit of indulging in extreme rhetoric doesn't mean that we don't take the situation seriously.

As we have demonstrated through our actions in the past few weeks, the United States is committed to maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. We are vigilantly monitoring the situation, and we are in close contact with our South Korean civilian and military counterparts, as well as with the governments of Japan, China, and Russia.

Our position has been, and remains, that North Korea should cease its provocative threats immediately.  North Korea’s nuclear activities are in clear violation of U.N. Security Resolutions and its international commitments, and we believe that North Korea should live up to these commitments and refrain from its provocative behavior.

To this end, we are working with our friends and allies around the world to employ an integrated response to these unacceptable provocations, which include United Nations Security Council Resolutions with unprecedentedly strong sanctions and additional unilateral sanctions of great effect, the result of which will be to leave North Korea further isolated from the international community.

In the security sphere, the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to the Republic of Korea. Together, we are taking important steps to advance the alliance’s military capabilities and enhance homeland and alliance security.

In particular, we will continue to provide the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella and will ensure that all of its capabilities remain available to the alliance.

As Secretary Hagel announced, we are also taking actions to strengthen our missile defenses in order to keep ahead of North Korean ballistic missile development. 

These include the deployment of 14 additional ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and the planned deployment of a second TPY-2 radar to Japan, which will provide improved early warning and tracking of any missile launched from North Korea towards the United States or Japan.  

In recent weeks, we have also moved the guided missile destroyers U.S.S. John S. McCain and U.S.S. Decatur to locations in the Western Pacific, where they are poised to respond to any missile threats to our allies or our territory.   

Last Thursday, we announced that we will be deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System ballistic missile defense system to Guam in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against a North Korean missile threat.

In addition to these measures, we recently signed a new joint “counter-provocation plan” with the Republic of Korea to enhance our coordination and response in the event of a North Korean provocation and mitigate the risk of miscalculation. 

And we are participating in annual military exercises with South Korea, including FOAL EAGLE and KEY RESOLVE, to make sure that our alliance is operationally ready to meet the security challenges that confront us in the region.

As the President has made clear, there is a path open to North Korea to peace and economic opportunity.  But to get on that path, North Korea must abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and abide by its international commitments. 

 

IMPLEMENTING THE REBALANCE

With that, let me return to the broader theme of today’s discussion, which is how we are implementing our defense rebalance across the Asia-Pacific region. 

And I’d like to begin by providing some strategic context:

We in the United States are currently embarked upon a great strategic transition.  After a decade of necessary and very intense preoccupation on two wars of a particular kind in Iraq and Afghanistan—one that has finished, and one that will wind down to an enduring presence over the next two years—we are turning a strategic corner, and focusing our attention on the challenges and opportunities that will define our future.

We know what many of those challenges are: continued turmoil in the Middle East, enduring threats like weapons of mass destruction, and a range of new threats in new domains like cyber.

We also see great opportunities—the most consequential of which is to shift the great weight of the Department of Defense—both intellectual and physical—to the Asia-Pacific region to reinforce our longstanding commitments here.

The logic of our rebalance is simple: the Asia-Pacific theater has enjoyed peace and stability for over sixty years.  This has been true despite the fact that there is no formal, overarching security structure—no NATO—to make sure that historical wounds are healed.  And during that time, first Japan rose and prospered, then South Korea rose and prospered, then many nations in Southeast Asia rose and prospered.  And now, China and India rise and prosper.  All this has been welcomed by the United States.

But none of this was a foregone conclusion when you consider where the Asia-Pacific region was at the end of World War II.   While the Asian political and economic miracle was realized, first and foremost, by the hard work and talent of the Asian people, it was enabled by the enduring principles that the U.S. has stood for in the region, which we believe are essential to peace, prosperity, and security.

These include a commitment to free and open commerce; a just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law; open access, by all, to the shared domains of sea, air, space, and now, cyberspace; and the principle of resolving conflict without the use of force.

It was also enabled—and this is the theme of my remarks today—by the pivotal role of U.S. military power and presence in the region.  We believe that our strong security presence in the Asia-Pacific has provided a critical foundation for these principles to take root.  And we intend to continue to provide this foundation for decades to come.  Our partners in the region welcome our leadership and our robust engagement, and we are committed to answering their call.  It’s good for us, and it’s good for everyone in the region.  And it includes everyone in the region.  It is not aimed at anyone – no individual country, or group of countries.

With this background, I’d like to explain the various features of our defense rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.  Our rebalance is reflected in:

Force structure decisions we have made and are making – that is, what we keep and what we retire;

  • Presence and posture  – that is, where we put things and what we can do with them – the most visible part of our rebalance;
  • Investments—not just in technology and new weapons systems— but in human capital as well;
  • Innovations in our operational plans and tactics;
  • And perhaps most importantly, the work we are doing to strengthen our alliances and partnerships in the region.

 

FORCE STRUCTURE

I’d like to begin by describing how we are shifting our force structure to the Asia-Pacific region.  And I’ll start with the Navy.

As we draw down from Afghanistan, the Navy will be releasing naval surface combatants, and eventually carriers, as well as naval intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and processing, exploitation and dissemination capabilities:

Already, EP-3 signals reconnaissance aircraft have moved from CENTCOM to PACOM.

  • The Navy will also be releasing Firescout Unmanned Aerial Vehicles from Afghanistan, and several electronic surveillance aircraft will be available for redeployment.
  • In addition, Navy P-3s, a type of maritime patrol aircraft, which have conducted maritime surveillance missions in the Middle East for the past decade, will return to PACOM.
  • And the Navy is also adding a 4th Forward Deployed Naval Force SSN to Guam in fiscal year 2015.

The Navy is also shifting its overall posture to the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Panetta announced last year that 60 percent of our naval assets would be assigned to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020 – a substantial and historic shift. 

The Navy is accomplishing this in three main ways:

First, the Navy will be permanently basing four destroyers in Rota, Spain, to provide ballistic missile defense to our European allies.  Previously, this mission was performed by ten destroyers that rotated from the U.S. to the Mediterranean.  The six destroyers that will now be released will be able to shift their deployments to the Asia-Pacific region, while the four ships in Spain continue providing the same amount of missile defense coverage for our European allies.

Second, destroyers and amphibious ships that have conducted security cooperation and humanitarian assistance missions in Africa, South America, and Europe, will be replaced for these missions by new Joint High Speed Vessels and Littoral Combat Ships under construction, freeing destroyers and amphibious ships to deploy to the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, the Navy will generate more forward presence by fielding ships—such as the JHSV and LCS, which I mentioned, as well as new Mobile Landing Platforms and Afloat Forward Staging Bases— that use rotating civilian or military crews.

The Air Force, capitalizing on its inherent speed, range, and flexibility in the region, will also shift capacity from Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets like the MQ-9 Reaper, the U-2, and the Global Hawk. 

In addition, the Air Force will be able to allocate space, cyber, tactical aircraft, and bomber forces from the U.S. to the Asia-Pacific region with little new investment, as 60 percent of its overseas-based forces are already stationed there, including 60 percent of combat-coded F-22s.

Our ability to strengthen the ongoing continuous bomber presence missions in the region will also benefit from reduced presence in Afghanistan.  As operations in Afghanistan end, for example, more B-1s will become available, augmenting the B-52s already on continuous rotational presence the region, and the capability to provide forward strategic presence with round-trip missions by the stealthy B-2 will remain a valuable option.

The Army and Marine Corps also have an important role to play in our rebalance.  Both services are making the most titanic transitions coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan because they’ve been so deeply involved in both conflicts.

The Army has about 91,000 soldiers and civilians assigned to the Asia-Pacific and it maintains a forward presence of eight active component Brigade Combat Teams, twelve batteries of Patriots, and numerous theater enabling units.

The Army is ensuring that, after a decade of using PACOM assets in the CENTCOM area, the PACOM commander regains command and control of the other 60,000 Soldiers assigned to the broader Asia- Pacific region.

As part of this regionally-aligned rotational concept, Army units assigned to PACOM will focus during their training cycle on specific PACOM mission profiles, such as bilateral and trilateral training exercises and building partnership capacity.

I should also add that during these months of sequestration and beyond, the Army is preferentially protecting the readiness and modernization of the more than 19,000 Soldiers we have in South Korea so that they are able to decisively respond to any North Korean provocation. 

The Marines also have a pivotal role to play in the Pacific as well.  Roughly 18,000 Marines are forward-deployed in the region, split between Iwakuni, where a fighter squadron is based; Okinawa, where III Marine Expeditionary Force operates from; and Darwin, which has a Marine rifle company.  The Marines have also put an additional two infantry battalions (for a total of three) on the ground in Okinawa and will put another there this fall.  These are rotational battalions that will move in and out of the Western Pacific every six months.  All of this will be accompanied by an EA-6 Prowler squadron in Iwakuni this fall, along with more heavy lift and attack helicopters on Okinawa.   I should also mention that there are 5,000 Marines on Oahu in Hawaii.

So in reality, the Asia-Pacific region will soon see more of our Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Forces, now that they are coming home to the Pacific from Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

FORWARD PRESENCE

In addition to shifting our own force structure, we are modernizing and enhancing our forward presence across the region in cooperation with our allies and partners. 

Let me start with Northeast Asia:

I’ve already mentioned the work we are doing with South Korea. 

In Japan, we have added aviation capability with the MV-22 Osprey deployment, we have upgraded our missile defense posture as I mentioned earlier with the deployment of a second TPY-2 radar, and we are working to revise the Defense Guidelines with Japan to meet the challenges of the 21stcentury.  

And, as announced by Secretary Hagel last week, the United States and Japan have achieved an important milestone in our effort to realign our Marine Corps presence in Okinawa. Moving forward on this initiative sends a clear signal that our posture in Northeast Asia will be operationally resilient, geographically distributed, and politically sustainable for the foreseeable future.

In addition to strengthening our presence in Northeast Asia, we are enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region as well.  In this regard, it’s important to underscore that we are not only rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific but also within the Asia-Pacific, in recognition of the growing importance of Southeast Asia to the region as a whole – emphasizing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime domain awareness, capacity building, and multilateral exercises.

In Australia, for example, our first company of Marines rotated through Darwin last year – a key first step towards using this presence to engage in bilateral and multilateral exercises with partners in the region

In the Philippines, we are working with our full and equal partner to enhance the capacity of the Philippines Armed Forces, increase our rotational presence, and capitalize on other opportunities for cooperation.

In Singapore, the first of our four Littoral Combat Ships will be arriving later this month, providing a key capability to work bilaterally and multilaterally with our partners in the region.

These are but a few examples of how we are expanding our presence in the region.

 

INVESTMENTS

Next, we are giving priority in our investments in our budget to the development of platforms and capabilities that have direct applicability to the Asia-Pacific region, all the while preserving and integrating the counter-insurgency and special operations capabilities that we have worked so hard to develop over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan,

These investments include the Virginia-class nuclear powered submarine –including the submarine itself and the new payload module for cruise missiles—as well as the P-8 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft and the anti-submarine MH-60 helicopter.  Together, these investments will help the Navy sustain its undersea dominance.  

The Navy is also fielding the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance sensor aboard the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to expand the range and capacity for ISR in the region; additional EA-18G electronic aircraft, and a Next Generation Jammer with extensive frequency range and increased agility.   These provide extensive electronic warfare capability.

In the Air Force, while we have made some reductions in tactical air squadrons worldwide by removing some of the older or single-purpose aircraft to make way for newer aircraft, we have made no significant changes in our tactical air posture for the Asia-Pacific region.  In addition, we have continued to invest in the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter, a new stealth bomber, the KC-46 tanker replacement, and a host of ISR platforms.

The Army, for its part, continues to invest in Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities that are being deployed and improved as I noted.

At the enterprise level, we are also protecting our investments in future-focused capabilities that are so important to this region, such as cyber, certain science and technology investments, and space. 

In addition to investing in technical capabilities, we are also investing in our people: in language and culture skills, regional and strategic affairs – to ensure that we cultivate the intellectual capital that will be required to make good on our rebalance.

And with regard to our military installations, we are making critical investments in training ranges and infrastructure – including in Guam, which we are developing as a strategic hub—as well as in Marianas, Saipan, and Tinian.

We are focused on delivering capacity, managing resources, and following-through on our investments.  Secretary Gates and Panetta both held regular videoconferences on Iraq and Afghanistan – where the commanders and all the key players in the Pentagon would work on those very urgent problems associated with both theaters.

Given the priority of our rebalance, Secretary Panetta decided to use this same model for PACOM – a model that Secretary Hagel has now adopted as well – to provide continuous and focused attention on the region.

In fact, I just came from such a meeting.

And to support the Secretary, I have been convening a series of working sessions of the Deputy’s Management Action Group – the principal management forum of the Department – that are specifically focused on our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.  We are watching every dollar, every ship, and every aircraft to implement the rebalance successfully.

 

OPERATIONAL PLANS

We also recognize that as the world is changing quickly, our operational plans need to change.  And we're changing them accordingly.  We are therefore taking into account new capabilities and operational concepts, advanced capabilities of potential adversaries and global threat assessments. 

 

PARTNERSHIPS

These many U.S. elements of our rebalance are only part of our strategy.  We also seek, as we have for decades, to build partnerships in the region that leverage the unique strengths of our various partners and allies to confront critical challenges and realize emerging opportunities.   

I’ve already mentioned the work we are doing with allies Japan, Korea, Australia, and the Philippines, but we’re building partnerships with many others also.

For example, last November, we worked with our treaty ally Thailand to update the U.S.-Thailand Joint Vision Statement for the first time in 50 years.

With New Zealand, the signing of the Washington Declaration and associated policy changes have opened up new avenues for defense cooperation in areas such as maritime security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping support.

In Burma, we have resumed limited military-to-military relations and are working to ensure the Burmese military supports Burma’s ongoing and dynamic reforms.

With the Vietnamese, we are expanding our cooperation – as set forth in a new memorandum of understanding – in maritime security, search-and-rescue, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, we are similarly working to build partner capacity to conduct maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

With China, we have invited the Chinese to participate in the RIMPAC exercise which we host, and we are delighted that they have accepted.  We seek to strengthen and grow our military-to-military relationship with China, commensurate with our growing political and economic relationship.  Building and sustaining a positive and constructive relationship with China is essential to the success of our rebalancing strategy.

Finally, India – a key part of our rebalance, and, more broadly, an emerging power that we believe will help determine the broader security and prosperity of the 21stcentury.  Our security interests with India converge on maritime security and broader regional issues, including India’s “Look East” policy.  We also are working to deepen our defense cooperation – moving beyond purely defense trade towards technology sharing and co-production.

Multilaterally, we recognize the importance of strengthening regional institutions like ASEAN that play an indispensable role in maintaining regional stability and resolving disputes through diplomacy.  In this regard, we have made attendance at key ASEAN ministerial meetings a priority for our secretaries, especially the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus.

We strongly support ASEAN unity and we applaud the efforts of ASEAN member nations to develop a binding code of conduct that would create a rules-based framework for regulating the conduct of parties in the South China Sea and would welcome China's active participation in negotiations on it.  Our position is clear and consistent: we call for restraint and for diplomatic resolution; we oppose provocation; we oppose coercion; and we oppose the use of force.  We don’t take sides when it comes to competing territorial and historical claims, but we do take the side of peaceful resolution of disputes in a manner consistent with international law.

We are also deeply engaged in ASEAN exercises planned this year, including a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise that will be hosted by Brunei, a counterterrorism exercise that we are cosponsoring with Indonesia, and a maritime security exercise co-chaired by Malaysia and Australia.

As we work to build these partnerships in Asia, we will complement them with critical new investments in our alliance and in our partnerships in Europe.  I mentioned the forward-basing of Aegis destroyers in Rota, Spain.  We have established an aviation detachment in Poland to more closely train with our allies’ Air Forces, we will place land-based missile defense systems in Romania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018, and will redefine our presence in the NATO Response Force with a steady rotation of U.S. Army forces to Europe to maintain our transatlantic military links, and cement tremendous interoperability gains we have made with allies and partners over the last decade of operations.  As we rebalance, in other words, our transatlantic bonds actually become even more important as we face common challenges outside Europe.

 

WHY REBALANCE WILL SUCEEED

So there is so much that goes into the rebalance.  Let me close by noting that there are those who have concerns about, and perhaps some who have hope for, a theory that our rebalance will not be lasting, or that it’s not sustainable.

I’m a physicist, and I therefore put facts against theory, and let me tell you why this theory doesn’t fit the facts.

The rebalance will continue, and in fact gain momentum for two reasons:

First, U.S. interests in the region are enduring, and so also will be our political and economic presence.  This presence is accompanied by values of democracy, freedom, human rights, civilian control of the military, and respect for the sovereignty of nations that America has long stood for, and that human beings welcome and I think relate to.

So our interest in staying a pivotal force in the region will, we believe, be reciprocated.

Second, we have the resources to accomplish the rebalance.  Some who wish to question the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific theater point to the current, seemingly endless debate in Washington about the U.S. budget, and wonder whether all this can be accomplished. 

I’m interested to hear this because I’m more accustomed to listening to people question why the U.S. spends more on defense than the next 16 largest militaries in the world combined.  This statistic is true and won’t change much in coming years.  It’s also worth noting that most of the rest of the money that the world spends on defense is spent by countries that are allies and friends of the United States.  These levels of defense spending are a reflection of the amount of responsibility that the U.S. and its friends and allies share for providing peace and security.

You may also be wondering whether the sequester will change these facts in a significant way.  It won’t, and here’s why:

Sequester was never intended to be implemented and is very disruptive because it gives us very little managerial flexibility in where we take budget adjustments this year.  But wherever we have flexibility, we are favoring and protecting the rebalance.  We continue to review and revise our plans for executing the FY13 budget in the face of sequester, increased costs of the Afghanistan campaign, and the fact that we only recently got an appropriation.  Back in January I gave direction about what is exempt from or protected from sequestration, and the Services and components are applying that guidance.   It explicitly directs the protection, wherever possible, of activities related to the rebalance this year.

The main point is that the arbitrary cuts that sequester imposes under the Budget Control Act are temporary, lasting through October of this year.  In other words, sequester is an artificial, self-inflicted political problem, not a structural problem.  Hopefully, the turmoil and gridlock will end and the U.S. can get back to normal budgeting.

When it does, Congress and the President will decide what DoD’s budget will be in the years beyond fiscal year 2013.  The President has been clear about holding defense spending steady in the long run or reducing it by a few percentage points, including especially by improving efficiency of defense spending. 

If the drastic cuts that began with sequester this year were extended for a decade, U.S. defense spending would be cut somewhere around ten percentage points. 

This is the range under debate today.

None of these political scenarios changes the math I described earlier: the U.S. defense rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is not in jeopardy.

 

STRATEGIC CHOICES AND MANAGEMENT REVIEW

That said, there is obviously considerable uncertainty about where an overall budget agreement, which is needed to end the current turmoil, will lead.  And what is clear to us in DoD is that we need to think and act ahead of this uncertainty, and not in reaction to it.   Moreover, it’s not the budget but strategic necessity that requires us to examine and reexamine our defense in a fundamental way: strategically, we are turning a corner after ten years of war, and we need to master the security challenges that will define the future. 

And, as you know I believe deeply, we need to improve the way we spend the taxpayer’s defense dollar, always striving for what I’ve called Better Buying Power since I was Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics.

For all these reasons, Secretary Hagel asked me to lead a Strategic Choices and Management Review, working with Chairman Dempsey, to examine the choices that underlie our defense strategy, posture, and investments, including all past assumptions and systems.  The Review will define the major strategic choices and institutional challenges affecting the defense posture in the decade ahead that must be made to preserve and adapt defense strategy and management under a wide range of future circumstances that could result from a comprehensive deficit reduction deal or the persistence of the cuts that began with this year’s sequester.

The results of this Review will frame the Secretary’s guidance for the Fiscal Year 2015 budget and will ultimately be the foundation for the Quadrennial Defense Review due to Congress in February 2014.

As Secretary Hagel said last week at NDU, the goal of the Review is to ensure that we can better execute the strategic guidance set out by the President – including our rebalance to Asia.

 

CONCLUSION

Finally, it is important to stress that the strength of our rebalance is not measured only by comparing defense budget levels.  The end of the war in Iraq and the reduction in Afghanistan allow us to shift the great weight of effort from these wars to our stabilizing presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Next, this weight has accumulated over decades of U.S. defense spending, so you have consider a nation’s defense investments over time.  It takes decades to build a military capability of the kind the U.S. has.

And probably most importantly, another feature of the U.S. military today is that its operational experience is unrivaled, including such attributes as the ability to work constructively with partners, fuse intelligence and operations, to operate jointly among services, and to support forces with logistics – all of these skills honed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For these reasons – enduring values and increasing military power – the United States can and will succeed in rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific in the years to come.

Thank you.

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