Australia-U.S. Summit Sets Stage for Closer Defense Cooperation

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Nov. 6, 2010 — Enhanced mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary activ­i­ties, clos­er coop­er­a­tion in space and cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, and pos­si­bly a larg­er U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in Aus­tralia are expect­ed to be on the agen­da as Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Navy Adm. Mike Mullen head to Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia.

The annu­al Australian-U.S. Min­is­te­r­i­al is sched­uled for Nov. 8. Host­ed by Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Stephen Smith and Defense Min­is­ter John Faulkn­er, it is con­sid­ered a key­stone event that sets a frame­work for alliance activ­i­ties in the com­ing year, a senior defense offi­cial told reporters trav­el­ing with Gates.

The lead­ers will dis­cuss glob­al and region­al chal­lenges and how to pos­ture the alliance to bet­ter meet them, the offi­cial said.

Among the top­ics are pos­si­ble plans to posi­tion more U.S. forces on Aus­tralian mil­i­tary bases where they would work coop­er­a­tive­ly with their Aus­tralian mil­i­tary coun­ter­parts. U.S. and Aus­tralian ser­vice­mem­bers already are embed­ded in each oth­ers’ mil­i­taries, but such an ini­tia­tive could take that arrange­ment to a new lev­el.

The senior offi­cial dis­missed any idea of U.S. bases or U.S.-only activ­i­ties in Aus­tralia, as some media have report­ed. “Every­thing we can ever imag­ine doing with Aus­tralia is very much inte­grat­ed and com­bined,” he said.

Empha­siz­ing that no deci­sions have been made, the offi­cial said a work­ing group to be for­mal­ly estab­lished at the sum­mit is expect­ed to begin work next month to study the issues involved. “We are going to look at the full range of things in terms of foot­print, pos­ture and pres­ence,” he said

Such a deci­sion would be made with­in the con­text of the ongo­ing Defense Depart­ment eval­u­a­tion of its force pos­ture and glob­al pres­ence. “We have got to make sure this fits with­in the broad­er frame­work of the region and also the globe,” the offi­cial said.

Although the depart­ment is still “in the ear­ly stages of that work,” he said, “we are now at the point where we want to start work­ing with some of our key allies and friends in the region to talk more broad­ly” about the asso­ci­at­ed issues.

Sum­mit par­tic­i­pants also are expect­ed to agree to a plan that would allow U.S. forces to pre-posi­tion equip­ment in Aus­tralia so it is avail­able for quick human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter response or oth­er con­tin­gen­cies in the region.

Also at the talks, Gates is expect­ed to sign a part­ner­ship agree­ment that pro­vides a frame­work for enhanced coop­er­a­tion against space-borne threats. The lead­ers also will dis­cuss ways to work togeth­er to address cyber threats that could impact both coun­tries’ crit­i­cal mil­i­tary com­put­er net­works and weapons sys­tems.

“These are two areas that real­ly point out how … both of our coun­tries work very hard ensur­ing that this alliance is for­ward look­ing, not just rest­ing on lau­rels, but look­ing at what are the new issues out there, the new issues of inter­est, and how we can coop­er­ate togeth­er in those areas,” the offi­cial said.

As the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia con­sid­er these and oth­er ways to boost their already-sol­id alliance, the offi­cial empha­sized that their actions are not direct­ed at Chi­na.

“Noth­ing that we are doing with any coun­try in the region is ori­ent­ed sole­ly toward Chi­na,” he said. “We are work­ing with [Aus­tralia] to pur­sue our com­mon inter­ests in the region.

We are work­ing with any and all coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na, that wish to be a part of the glob­al frame­work and the inte­grat­ed world that we are all ben­e­fit­ing from.

“So noth­ing that we are doing in terms of force pos­ture with any one coun­try or glob­al­ly is tar­get­ed at any one or any spe­cif­ic coun­try.”

The sum­mit will rein­force that Unit­ed States’ deep invest­ment in Asia and its endur­ing alliance with Aus­tralia in advanc­ing region­al secu­ri­ty and shared inter­ests.

“We are here, we are a Pacif­ic pow­er, we have the will and the capa­bil­i­ty to remain so, and have every inten­tion of doing it,” the offi­cial said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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