Lethality

Defense of Indo-Pacific Requires Joint Capabilities, Solutions

Sept. 4, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone

The importance of joint operations in defending the Indo-Pacific region has increased by an order of magnitude, U.S. military leaders said.

At a conference in Arlington, Virginia, sponsored by Defense News, the paper's David Larter moderated a joint service panel titled "Defending the Pacific."

All panel members stressed the importance of joint solutions in multidomain operations they foresee taking place in the region, and they discussed what the return to great power competition means to the U.S. effort in the region.

U.S. and Japanese service members work under an aircraft wing.
Japan Training
Japan Air Self Defense Force member Reo Shimabukuro trains with U.S. Air Force airmen from the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s petroleum, oil and lubricants flight as part of a bilateral exchange between U.S. airmen and their Japanese counterparts at Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2019. The POL flight works around the clock to ensure Kadena’s aircraft are fueled for a diverse mission set in the Indo-Pacific region.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Kristan Campbell
VIRIN: 190619-F-WU765-2018C

There is no doubt that an increased threat from China and Russia in the Indo-Pacific region has meant changes to U.S. strategy and requirements, and the National Defense Strategy is the tie that binds in the region, the panelists said.

"The concept of multidomain operations, the concept of being able to connect any shooter with any weapon to any sensor, is not a small challenge," said Maj. Gen. Mike Fantini, the Air Force's director of wartime integration.

Fantini said he sees a time when it doesn't matter which service owns a sensor. All services will be networked together so the command can "execute thousands of kill chains in hundreds of hours," he said.

"If we are able to pull that off," he added, "our potential adversaries will think twice before they start to step off."

Navy lieutenant helps a child using watercolors to paint a small statue.
Play Paint
Navy Lt. Jeffrey Birch helps a student from Phu Yen Inclusive Development Center paint a statue during a cultural exchange program at Phu Yen Inclusive Development Center in Tuy Hoa, Vietnam, May 17, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tyrell K. Morris
VIRIN: 190517-N-NB178-1195C
U.S. Navy sailor looks at a computer monitor with sailors from the Indonesian navy.
Info Exchange
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rodney Franklin, center, a maritime domain awareness analyst, monitors a Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System terminal alongside Indonesian sailors during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Indonesia 2019 in Surabaya, Indonesia, Aug. 4, 2019. This year marks the 25th iteration of CARAT, a multinational exercise designed to enhance U.S. and partner navies' abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Greg Johnson
VIRIN: 190804-N-UA460-0255C

Vice Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, the Navy's deputy chief of operations, plans and strategy, said the new situation requires a new look. The United States had not had a comprehensive adversary for three decades, he noted. "As a result of that," he said, "we are restoring some behaviors that used to be second nature to us."

While new capabilities grab the headlines in a way that new quarterbacks do in football, "the blocking and tackling" are just as important, Munsch said. Logistics enables everything done in the region and beyond, the admiral said, and more attention must now be paid to that aspect of warfare.

U.S. sailor in uniform and two civilians remove a large panel from a piece of medical equipment.
Panel Removal
Eddy de Assis, left, and Xisto do Rosario, biomedical technicians from Guido Valadares National Hospital, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Distin, a hospital corpsman, remove a panel from a medical suction unit during a Pacific Partnership 2019 knowledge exchange in Dili, Timor-Leste, May 2, 2019. Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific region.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan Carpenter
VIRIN: 190502-N-CO914-1037

Everything is predicated on the truism that all in the Defense Department are members of a joint force, said Lt. Gen. Eric M. Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. This is even more important in the Indo-Pacific region, he said, because the distances in the region are overwhelming and the resources of any one service would be spread thin.

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, director of the Army's Future Concepts Center, said force posture in the region and worldwide needs to be studied. He said there is a need to have resources based forward to challenge competitors who are not afraid to pursue their goals "left of conflict."

"The degree to which we find ourselves forward-postured will measure the degree which we can effectively deal with that against China and Russia," he said.