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Austin Emphasizes U.S. Ties With Indo-Pacific Allies, Partners

July 24, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Since taking office, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has devoted precious time to ensuring the United States military does its part to maintain the web of alliances that are America's greatest strength.

Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III stands in front of two others.
Secretary Austin
Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III visits Fort Wainwright, Alaska, July 24, 2021. Alaska is the first stop in a seven-day trip that includes Singapore, Hanoi, Vietnam, Manila and the Philippines. Austin will meet with key leaders reaffirming defense relationships and conducting bilateral meetings with senior officials.
Photo By: Chad McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 210724-D-TT977-0153

The COVID-19 pandemic forced him to make some of those contacts virtual, but he personally visited Japan, South Korea, India, Israel, Germany and NATO.

He is now on his second week-long trip to the Indo-Pacific region to further cement those ties.

The secretary spoke about the importance of those contacts during a press conference at Eielson Air Force Base today, emphasizing that the value the United States gets from these ties with allies and partners is immeasurable.

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"Everything that we have done in the past has been as a part of a team — a coalition," Austin said. "It's who we are, and it's how we fight."

These alliances magnify America's military capabilities, he said. 

Austin spoke in a hangar on the base; in the background were three F-35 Lightning 2 fifth generation aircraft. One plane had the markings of the Royal Australian Air Force. In another corner of the hangar was an EF-18G Growler that also sported the kangaroo symbol.

Four men stand around a military aircraft.
F-35 Brief
Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III is briefed on an Air Force F-35 Lightning II at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, July 24, 2021. Alaska is the first stop in a seven-day trip that includes Singapore, Hanoi, Vietnam, Manila and the Philippines. Austin will meet with key leaders reaffirming defense relationships and conducting bilateral meetings with senior officials.
Photo By: Chad McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 210724-D-TT977-0241

The United States is proud of its relationships with Australia and other nations. "We look to continue to develop our relationships with like-minded partners and allies that share our values, that look to … ensure that we have, that we follow an international rules-based order," he said. 

This network of alliances and partnerships is an asymmetric advantage the United States has over potential adversaries. "I would point to, to the fact that others don't … enjoy those kinds of partnerships and alliances," he said. "If you look at China or Russia, they don't have the ability to get to align themselves with like-minded partners to the degree that the United States does. It magnifies our capabilities." 

The secretary said that from a military standpoint, these allies and partners are at the core of how America fights. "It's a way that we operate," Austin said. "We train with each other; we share common practices and policies. It's how we're going to fight going forward."

Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III shakes hands with service members.
Wainwright Visit
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III visits Fort Wainwright, Alaska, July 24, 2021.
Photo By: Chad McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 210724-D-TT977-0128

Eielson Air Force Base is a case in point. The base hosts the Red Flag exercise. Held four times a year, Red Flag tests aviators, maintainers, logisticians and more in all aspects of conflict. The base has hosted aircraft from many allies including Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines, according to an Eielson spokesperson.

Austin will continue on from Alaska to meet with partners in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.