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The Asia-Pacific Rebalance: Where Does
 It Stand, and What About Implementation?

November 1, 2013
by Kent R. Schneider

It has been less than two years since the president and the secretary of defense released the latest strategic defense guidance, titled, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” A key tenet of this guidance was a strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. This guidance acknowledged the ongoing threat in the Middle East and South Asia, but it also postulated that the threat capability had been reduced there. It also made the case that, “U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities”—hence the rebalance.

Questions now are being asked about the viability of this strategy because of tightening budgets, the constraints of a series of continuing resolutions and sequestration. In addition, the Middle East continues to challenge world peace. The Obama administration has clarified the strategy by stating that the Asia-Pacific rebalance is not a shift away from Europe and the Middle East but rather a balancing of assets and forward-deployed forces. It recognizes the United States has responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific region and threats there that cannot be ignored.

No matter where members of the AFCEA community sit, their planning will be affected by the future direction of the U.S. defense strategy. AFCEA has been focusing on the Asia-Pacific region for many years, and the association will be directing even more significant attention to the rebalance in coming months. This will include a look at emerging policy and guidance, budget realities and implementation.

The first opportunity to address the direction in the Asia-Pacific region will be TechNet Asia-Pacific, December 3-5, in Honolulu. Conference attendees will hear from the U.S. Pacific Command, all of the Pacific component commands, coalition partners, industry partners and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Discussion will center on the direction of the Asia-Pacific region, ongoing initiatives in that region, coalition building in the largest U.S. geographic theater and the critical role cyber plays in this part of the world. This is a unique opportunity to explore this theater because this conference will include representatives from throughout the Pacific Rim. Its timing makes this a must-attend event.

The second chance to explore the Asia-Pacific region and its rebalance is the AFCEA/U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) West 2014 Conference, February 11-13, 2014, in San Diego. The theme for this event is, “The New Maritime Strategy: How Do We Make It Work?” This year, AFCEA and USNI have combined the West event with the East: Joint Warfighting event to create the definitive sea-service-focused symposium.

Given the heavy play of the maritime domain in the Asia-Pacific region, understanding the overall U.S. maritime strategy and how it affects the Asia-Pacific rebalance is important. Just recently, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, chief of naval operations, detailed the U.S. Navy’s fiscal year 2014 budget realities. These certainly will affect the overall maritime strategy, as well as the Asia-Pacific rebalance. Adm. Greenert; Gen. James F. Amos, USMC, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; and Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., USCG, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, all will be together in a single town hall meeting as part of the West Conference. They will discuss fiscal realities and implementation challenges.

West 2014 also will include the Honorable Ashton B. Carter, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense; Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command; and Adm. William H. McRaven, USN, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. These senior leaders will be able to provide their views from the top—each from their unique perspectives—where the maritime strategy is going, what the constraints are, how the Asia-Pacific rebalance is impacted and how its implementation will be achieved. No one will want to miss this critical discussion.

We are at one of those inflection points for the defense strategy and structure that only occur occasionally. It is important for all of us to understand what is happening, and the dynamics are complicated by the economic environment. I hope you will agree that these two events will help enlighten the conversation.

 

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