In support of this goal, America is implementing a rebalance – which is primarily a diplomatic, economic and cultural strategy. President Obama is increasing funding for diplomacy and development in Asia, including a seven percent increase in foreign assistance in the Asia-Pacific region. [...]
The Department of Defense plays an important role in securing the President’s vision of rebalance. Our approach was outlined in the President’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, which is still guiding the U.S. military as we reorient its capabilities and capacities to better prepare for future global security challenges.
As we carry out this strategy, it is true that the Department of Defense will have fewer resources than in the recent past. It would be unwise and short-sighted to conclude, however, that our commitment to the rebalance cannot be sustained – particularly given the truth that even under the most extreme budget scenarios, the United States military will continue to represent nearly 40 percent of global defense expenditures. Like the employment of all resources, it is always a matter of the wise, judicious and strategic use of those resources that matters the most and has the most lasting impact.
The fact of the matter is that new fiscal realities present an opportunity to conduct a thorough and much-needed review to ensure we are matching resources to the most important priorities. With that goal in mind, I recently directed a Department-wide Strategic Choices and Management Review. Although the review’s outcome is not final, the direction I provided was to follow the President’s defense strategic guidance, to focus new energy and thinking on addressing long-standing challenges, and to make our defense enterprise one that better reflects 21st century security realities – including the rise of Asia.
For the region, this means I can assure you that coming out of this review, the United States will continue to implement the rebalance and prioritize our posture, activities and investments in Asia-Pacific. We are already taking many tangible actions in support of that commitment.
For example, the United States is adding to the capacity of our ground forces in the Pacific after Iraq and as we draw down from Afghanistan. The 1st and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and the Army’s 25th Infantry Division are all returning to their home stations in the Pacific theater. The United States Army is also designating 1st Corps as “regionally aligned” to the Asia-Pacific region.
In addition to our decision to forward base 60 percent of our naval assets in the Pacific by 2020, the U.S. Air Force has allocated 60 percent of its overseas-based forces to the Asia-Pacific – including tactical aircraft and bomber forces from the continental United States. The Air Force is focusing a similar percentage of its space and cyber capabilities on the region. These assets enable us to capitalize on the Air Force’s inherent speed, range, and flexibility.
The United States military is not only shifting more of its assets to the Pacific – we are using these assets in new ways to enhance our posture and partnerships. For example, we are pushing forward with plans for innovative rotational deployments in the region. Last year, we noted at this forum that the U.S. Navy had committed to rotating up to four Littoral Combat Ships through Singapore. In recent weeks, the first of those ships, the USS Freedom, arrived to begin a busy schedule of regional maritime engagements. I look forward to visiting the ship tomorrow. Meanwhile, the second company-sized rotation of U.S. Marines recently arrived in Darwin to deepen cooperation with our treaty ally Australia and other regional partners. Eventually, 2,500 U.S. Marines will be deployed to Australia each year.
America’s enduring commitment to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region depends on sustaining the ability to deter aggression and operate effectively across all domains, including air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace.
Our five year budget plan submitted to Congress this year put a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining forces – such as submarines, long-range bombers, and carrier strike groups – that can project power over great distance and carry out a variety of missions. In the future, this region will see more of these capabilities as we prioritize deployments of our most advanced platforms to the Pacific, including the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter deployments to Japan, and a fourth Virginia-class fast attack submarine forward deployed to Guam.
Even further over the horizon, we are investing in promising technologies and capabilities that will enhance our decisive military edge well into the future. For example, last month, for the first time ever, the U.S. Navy successfully launched an experimental remotely piloted aircraft from an aircraft carrier, ushering in a new era in naval aviation.
Having achieved a series of technological breakthroughs in directed energy, next year for the first time the U.S. Navy will deploy a solid-state laser aboard a ship, the USS Ponce. This capability provides an affordable answer to the costly problem of defending against asymmetric threats like missiles, swarming small boats, and remotely piloted aircraft.
Combined with new concepts, doctrine, and plans that integrate these new technologies and other game changing capabilities, we will ensure freedom of action throughout the region well into the future.
Our investments in Asia are not just about cutting-edge technology and platforms, they are also about cultivating deeper ties between our people and building a network of professional military personnel and security experts across the region. [...]