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Deputy Secretary Discusses U.S.-Australia Alliance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SYDNEY, Feb. 13, 2010 – U.S. officials are “very satisfied” with the contributions Australia is making in Afghanistan and will not ask the nation for more troops in the country, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said during an interview here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III receives a tour of the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, where he participated in a roundtable discussion of cybersecurity with Australian government, business and civic leaders, Feb. 13, 2010. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Lynn is visiting Australia to meet with government, civic and business leaders about expanding the U.S.–Australia alliance to face new threats.

Australia has 1,550 troops committed to the battle in Afghanistan – mostly in Oruzgan province in Regional Command South. The province is thought to be the birthplace of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Australia has lost 11 servicemembers in the fighting in Afghanistan.

Even though a surge of new troops is moving into Afghanistan, the United States has no intention of asking Australia for more forces, the deputy secretary told Annabel McGilvray of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

He said the alliance with Australia is critical to the United States. President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Australia next month points to the significance of the alliance to the United States and will serve to re-affirm America’s commitment to it, the deputy secretary added.

Lynn praised the adaptability of the U.S.-Australia alliance.

“We’ve fought together side by side in all of the major wars in the last century, and now we’re fighting side by side in Afghanistan in a very different war, but a very important one,” Lynn said. “One of the reasons I’m here this week is to talk about collaboration in a new area – cybersecurity – where we have a common understanding of the threats and can work together to meet those threats.”

Lynn noted that the Internet itself is only 20 years old, and that governments around the world still are trying to develop appropriate doctrines. In the United States, these doctrines proceed on at least three levels, he said.

“We need at the individual user level good hygiene – you just need to download all of the appropriate patches and make sure your security is up to speed,” he explained. “You also need a second layer which is a string of firewalls and intrusion-detection devices. And then you need a layer that I call more active defenses, which is an ability for governments to understand and then counter the kinds of more malicious threats that might be out there against both government and critical private-sector computers.”

In January, Google officials came forward about sophisticated cyber attacks aimed at the firm’s source code and Gmail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists around the world. While Google officials couldn’t say the Chinese government was behind the attacks, they did say other American firms were the victims of such attacks in the past.

“One of the things about that threat is people have often focused on the immediate damage that a cyber attack or intrusion might do – that it might bring down a power grid or do damage to a financial network or something like that,” Lynn said. “And those are things we need to worry about. But the Google threat is much more the theft of intellectual property.

“The U.S. and Australian economies thrive on the strength of the kinds of intellectual developments our societies have made,” he continued, “and we need to be able to protect those from theft on the Internet and elsewhere. That’s one of the new avenues that the cyber threat poses.”

Governments need to collaborate against the threat, Lynn said, because the Internet knows no national boundaries, and what is a threat against Google in the United States now could be threat to international companies elsewhere within nanoseconds.

“As we see the kinds of threats and develop the means to address them, we can share that warning, we can share technology, we can share approaches,” Lynn said. “We need a broad set of collaborative international agreements to address the nature of that threat.”

The idea is moving forward. Last year, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia signed an agreement of principle on the cyber threat, and the countries are looking to expand the collaboration.

The U.S.-Australian alliance began more than 100 years ago, and now it needs to move into more current areas – Afghanistan, cybersecurity and counterpiracy, Lynn said, adding that U.S. and Australian leaders must be open to new ideas and practices for the future.

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William J. Lynn III

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