Asia-Pacific Shift Creates
Opportunities, Security Needs
By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — April 15, 2015 — The Defense Department’s ongoing rebalance to the
thriving Asia-Pacific region comes with many opportunities and a few pressing
requirements: to upgrade security relationships, maintain specific military
capabilities and redouble efforts to boost U.S. technological superiority,
defense officials said today.
Christine Wormuth, undersecretary of defense for policy, testified before the
House Armed Services Committee on implications for aspects of the department’s
Asia-Pacific rebalance of losing military technological superiority.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III
Joining the undersecretary were Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander
of U.S. Pacific Command, and Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S.
The past seven years have been a time of tremendous change and opportunity
for the Asia-Pacific region, Wormuth told the panel. “As nations there rise and
become more prosperous,” she said, “it's created a lot of opportunity at the
same time that dynamism in the region has created a much more complex security
environment in which we are now operating.”
Challenges in the Region
The department faces several challenges in the region, including those that
come from China, she said.
“China's very rapid military modernization, its opaque defense budget, its
actions in space and cyberspace and its behavior in places like the East and
South China Seas,” she added, raise serious questions for the department.
China's expanding interests are a natural part of its rise, Wormuth said, but
its behavior in the maritime domain, for example, has created friction for its
“The government's efforts to incrementally advance its claims in the East and
South China Seas and its extensive land reclamation activities, particularly the
prospect of further militarizing those outposts, are very concerning to us,” she
China and North Korea
The United States and China are not allies, but they don’t have to be
adversaries, Wormuth added, noting that the department is speaking with China
about its concerning actions and about activities to improve understanding,
especially through military-to-military engagement with the People’s Liberation
Army. Elsewhere in the region, she said, DoD’s greatest concern is North Korea's
pursuit of ballistic missiles and its weapons of mass destruction program.
Other challenges in the region, Wormuth told the panel, “are magnified by a
growing range of nontraditional threats, such as the increased flow of foreign
fighters both to and from Asia, the trafficking of illegal goods and people, and
devastating natural disasters such as the cyclone we saw last month in Vanuatu.”
DoD is focused on the rebalance along several lines of effort, Wormuth said.
Strengthening Security Relationships
These include strengthening security relationships with allies and partners,
including Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines, and strengthening
new relationships in South and Southeast Asia. These include Singapore,
Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The department also is investing in its partnership with the 10-nation
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which leads an effort to build a more
robust regional security architecture, the undersecretary said. The U.S-India
relationship also is an important partnership, she added.
The department is updating its forward presence, putting more assets into the
region and using its assets in new ways, Wormuth said. “We've developed a more
distributed model for our Marine Corps that is reducing our concentrated
presence in Okinawa [by] relocating Marines to Australia, Guam, Hawaii and
mainland Japan,” she added.
Sustaining the U.S. Technological Edge
The Navy is working on its rotational-presence concept, including being on
track to have four littoral combat ships rotating through Singapore by 2017. Two
ships are already there, the undersecretary said.
And the Army will initiate its first rotational deployment of a brigade
combat team to the Korean Peninsula later this spring.
“We're making significant investments to sustain our American technological
edge into the future in the air, land, sea and undersea domains,” Wormuth added,
investing in precision munitions and working on new capabilities for operating
freely in space and cyberspace.
In his remarks to the panel, Locklear said that the United States is a
Pacific nation, but also an island nation. “We rely very heavily on power
projection, which means we have to be able to get the forces forward [and]
sustain them forward,” he said.
U.S. forces “rely heavily on systems that several decades ago weren't even
known about or thought about too much, and that exist now in the cyber world and
in the space world,” Locklear said.
Dominant Military Power
Such systems also could reveal vulnerabilities that the department will have
to pace with technological advancements, the admiral said.
“It's my assessment that we remain the most dominant military power in the
world in all aspects,” Locklear said. “And I think that not a country in the
world would disagree with that today, even though I think they would recognize
that … the relative gap between how good we are versus how some of the other
forces may be developing is shrinking.”
But Locklear said he believes the United States clearly has the best ships,
the best submarines, the best aircraft carriers, “and the best people running
them in the world.”
He added, “What’s important to me is making sure that the force we have,
number one, is dominant … and it needs to be technologically superior across
Relevant in All Domains
From space to cyber to air to integrated air and missile defense, to sea,
maritime, subsurface maritime, the admiral said, there are technological
challenges as all the militaries of the world get better in these domains. “We
must continue apace to be relevant in the domains that allow us to project U.S.
power in defense of U.S. interests,” he said.
In his remarks, Scaparrotti focused on the Korean Peninsula. The North
Koreans are developing asymmetric capabilities, he said, “and specifically
orienting on what they consider to be some of our vulnerabilities, and through
their development they are trying to close our dominance.”
Specific asymmetric capabilities that Scaparrotti said he thinks about most
are North Korea’s ballistic missile capability and the continued ability to
counter it, along with its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
“Many of our adversaries are becoming more proficient in determining how to
work inside our capabilities -- our intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance capabilities -- and also how to use deception and other means in
order to limit the advantage we have today,” the general said.
The Defense Department has to continue to develop its capabilities, to change
its posture, its concepts and its employment to ensure that we maintain
dominance, Scaparrotti added.
“My top concern is that we will have little to no warning of a North Korean
asymmetric provocation, which could start a cycle of action and counteraction
leading to unintended escalation,” Scaparrotti said.
This underscores the need for the alliance to maintain a high level of
readiness and vigilance, he added, noting that last year the alliance took
significant steps to improve its capabilities and capacities to deter aggression
and reduce operational risk.
Steadfast Strategic Partner
“But our work is not done,” the general said. “In 2015, we will maintain this
momentum by focusing on my top priority -- sustaining and strengthening the
alliance -- with an emphasis on our combined readiness.”
Strengthening the alliance includes ensuring the rapid flow of ready forces
into Korea in the early phases of hostilities, he said, and improving ISR
capabilities and critical munitions.
Based on both nations’ national security strategies, Scaparrotti said, the
United States will continue to be a steadfast strategic partner to South Korea,
“and South Korea is poised to be a long-lasting and important ally to America.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
Related Stories :
Special Report: Asia-Pacific Rebalance
Related Biographies :
Christine E Wormuth
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III
Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti