The United States acknowledged a long-evolving trend when it initiated the strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. For many years we have needed to place increased emphasis on that vast and dynamic area, and the rebalance has set a course for that important goal. But we are in danger of losing the benefits of the pivot to the Pacific in several ways.
"Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” So went the taunt in the 1987 film The Princess Bride, a comic adventure brimming with clever one-liners. Far from avoiding land war in Asia, we have jumped in repeatedly with both feet, both hands and all the gusto we could muster. In information technology-speak, when it comes to U.S. strategy, fighting on Asian terrain appears to be a feature, not a bug.
As the U.S. Navy modernizes information systems across the fleet, one organization is responsible for researching, developing and fielding the full range of technologies in the Asia-Pacific region, providing complete life cycle development and support for systems, from concept to fielded capability.
When the U.S. military began its now popularly termed “Asia pivot” a few years ago, the new outward focus on the Pacific region as a national military priority warranted some internal Defense Department focus on how to achieve the mission—to include bumping up the position for the U.S. Army Pacific commander from a three-star general to a four-star.
The U.S. strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region is being challenged by internal and external developments that are changing how the U.S. Pacific Command carries out its missions. Internal developments include budgetary pressures and local disputes. External developments include terrorism that could be migrating into the vast region.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab wraps up experiments testing multiple systems, including robots, radios and ship-to-shore transporters in Hawaii.
China has claimed and built up numerous islands, rocks, atolls and reefs in and near the South China Sea to support territorial claims in waters far away from the Middle Kingdom. Important differences in territorial sea and exclusive economic zones between them explain why some are more important than others.
A new facility for cybersecurity is allowing U.S. Forces Korea to coordinate efforts with other U.S. commands as well as Republic of Korea civilian government and military forces. The Joint Cyber Center serves as the focal point for increasing international cooperation between U.S. and Korean forces in their defensive measures against increasing cyber aggression from North Korea. It blends activities from the local J-2, J-3 and J-6 along with input from other forces worldwide.
China’s encroachment in the South China Sea for more than 40 years has much more impact on freedom of navigation and international confrontations than on pursuit of resources. While it has been staking territorial rights to oil- and gas-rich island regions also claimed by multiple countries, the Middle Kingdom has been employing maritime forces ranging from fishing boats to Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels in ways that suggest expanded control over oceangoing traffic.
All the challenges vexing a modern military—budgetary limitations; information technologies; cyber; and joint and coalition interoperability—are defining operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Covering more than half the Earth’s surface and comprising dozens of nations, the vast area is rife with geopolitical rivalries that complicate efforts at regional security. And, the one domain that knows no geographic bounds—cyberspace—weighs heavily on the success of potential warfighting operations in that region.
The success of Operation Damayan, the massive Philippines typhoon relief effort by the U.S. Pacific Command, owes as much to preparation as to execution, according to a U.S. official involved in the operation. Military communications equipment designed for easy entry and quick activation provided essential networking capabilities. Longtime multinational and bilateral exercises laid the groundwork for interoperability, both technological and organizational, between U.S. and Philippine armed forces.
When the U.S. Marines needed to set up an emergency communications system on site in the wake of the devastating typhoon that ravaged the Philippines in November, they used an existing rapid deployment networking suite, which allowed nearly instant links with the two governments and with nongovernmental organizations as well. And, it all began with equipment carried into theater as if it were checked baggage.
Partnering with industry is not a new concept for the military. However, with funding limits plunging, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet has extended an invitation to industry to come up with ways of giving the Navy what it needs in economic ways.
For years, the U.S. Navy built its force around the concept of network-centric operations. Now that it has some of the most advanced information technology capabilities in the military realm, the U.S. Pacific Fleet must re-learn how to operate without them in a disconnected, intermittent, low-bandwidth (DIL) environment.
With the new Joint Information Environment looming as the basis for networking across the force, planners must consider how to add coalition allies and nontraditional partners. Establishing communities of interest may be the answer.
Instead of deciding where to spend its money, the Pentagon now must decide where not to spend its increasingly scarce cash resources. This entails risk assessment that focuses on how not to hurt the warfighter.
Cyber has provided the means for rapidly assembling and operating military coalitions in the post-Cold-War era. Now, the very nature of the domain may require coalitions to save it from a growing menu of threats. These threats can range from annoying hackers to organized crime to malicious nation-states and even geopolitical movements to restrict the flow of ideas. While the panoply of perils is diverse, the actions to defend against them may have to spring from the well of government and organizational cooperation.
More than just generational differences characterize today's cyber work force. People of all ages have different ways of thinking and different goals for their profession. The variation is almost as great as the technology changes they are incorporating.
The networking assembled for the emergency Philippine typhoon response broke new ground in connectivity among governments and relief organizations. However, it also opened the door to sabotage by cybermarauders.
Australia has implemented a cybersecurity policy that brings together government and industry to secure the domain nationally. The country recently elevated cybersecurity as a major priority for national security, and in 2009, it established a Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC).