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.
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. Accordingly, the new position would need a four-star mission command center.
The United Nations is running an Asia-Pacific technology transfer program that puts necessary capabilities in the hands of developing countries while improving international relations in the region. Efforts assist large and small states to harness the potential of technology to create a better future for their citizens.
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.
This is the second article in a two-part series. For part one, click here.
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. Islands that can be inhabited have 12 miles of territorial sea and a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Atolls have territorial sea but no EEZ, and submerged reefs have neither claim rights, even if above-water structures are built on them.
China and Russia represent two of the most robust, comprehensive concerns to worldwide stability. Almost every major geostrategic threat—cyber attack, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, capable military forces, political influence, economic power, sources of and high demand for energy—is resident in those two countries that often find themselves at odds with the United States and its allies. Decisions by their leaders on how to engage with the rest of the world, and how the two sovereign states decide to relate to each other, will have major effects on geopolitics.
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.
The rise of new global flashpoints along with a strategic rebalancing are presenting the U.S. Navy with a new set of challenges and obligations concurrent with significant force reductions. The sum of the budget cuts would be enough to tax the service under any circumstances, but they are being implemented against a backdrop of a broader mission set and increased activities by potential foes.
West 2014 Online Show Daily, Day 3
Quote of the Day:
“We have global responsibilities. We will not be able to do less with less. We will do the same with less.”—Gen. James F. Amos, USMC, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps
West 2014 Online Show Daily, Day 1
Quote of the Day:
“If Batman had a ship, it would look like the Zumwalt-class destroyer.”—Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The budget reductions that will be a fact of military life for the foreseeable future promise to impel dramatic changes in force structure and military operations. Ongoing needs such as high technology and overseas commitments offer the possibility of being both challenges and solutions, as planners endeavor to plan around a smaller but, hopefully, more capable force.
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 U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff has updated its maritime joint command and control guidance, reflecting changing practices across the fleet. Although the rewrite is part of regularly scheduled reviews, the timing is apt for world conditions. U.S. attention is moving east to a far more watery environment than the one the country has focused on for the last dozen or more years, and contentions among nations for waterway control continue to mount in areas such as the East China Sea.
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. Commercial technologies, such as local cell systems that survived the storm, proved invaluable for onsite communications. And, U.S.
A set of rapid entry communications systems formed the core of networking assets for U.S. military forces providing humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) operations in the Philippines in the wake of the devastating November typhoon. These systems provided scalable links that allowed U.S. forces to interoperate with the Philippine government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in sharing unclassified information.
Historical trends during military drawdowns indicate that current Defense Department budget cuts could last for more than a decade. This situation could endanger major acquisition programs and negatively impact the ability of the United States both to pivot forces to the Asia-Pacific region and to maintain a presence in the Middle East, experts say. But the department may have a short window of opportunity to reconcile strategy with lower budgets.
The network-centric U.S. Navy could find itself without its core information assets during a conflict in the vast Asia-Pacific region. So, the U.S. Pacific Fleet is embarking on an effort to learn how to function without some of its most important technology capabilities.
Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, outlined that scenario on the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Adm. Harris said the fleet is planning for operation in a disconnected, intermittent, low-bandwidth environment, or DIL.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet is feeling the pain of budget cuts, and its commander is looking toward industry to provide it with necessary capabilities under tight budgetary conditions. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, described the approaches he wants industry to take along with the fleet’s requirements on the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“We’re looking to our partners in industry to develop the new technologies and capabilities we need,” Adm. Harris declared. “And, we have do it in a fiscally constrained environment.”
Defense spending must shift its outlook away from what it needs and toward where it can afford not to spend money, according to a Navy information technology executive. Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, told the breakfast audience at the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the department must become more outcome focused and determine the risk of not doing something.
“The number one question in the Pentagon today is, ‘What am I not going to spend money on?’” Halvorsen stated.