Obama Announces Expanded U.S. Military Presence in Australia

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma joined Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Julia Gillard today to announce expand­ed mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ships between the two coun­tries as they com­mem­o­rat­ed the 60th anniver­sary of the Aus­tralia-New Zealand-U.S. alliance.

Speak­ing at a joint news con­fer­ence in the Aus­tralian cap­i­tal of Can­ber­ra, the lead­ers announced clos­er col­lab­o­ra­tion between the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force and the Aus­tralian Defense Force.

Begin­ning in mid-2012, com­pa­ny-size rota­tions of 200 to 250 Marines will begin deploy­ing near Dar­win in Australia’s North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry for six-month rota­tions. Gillard said the pres­ence will expand to a force of 2,500 over the next sev­er­al years.

“As of today’s deal, U.S. Marines will be for the first time con­duct­ing exer­cis­es by them­selves on Aus­tralian soil,” Oba­ma said.

This rota­tion­al deploy­ment is sig­nif­i­cant because it allows the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia to build capac­i­ty and coop­er­a­tion, the pres­i­dent said.

“But it also allows us to meet the demands of a lot of part­ners in the region” in terms of train­ing, exer­cis­es and “the pres­ence that’s nec­es­sary to main­tain the secu­ri­ty archi­tec­ture of the region,” he added.

Oba­ma and Gillard also agreed to pro­vide U.S. mil­i­tary air­craft greater access to Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force facil­i­ties in north­ern Aus­tralia.

The expand­ed rela­tion­ship will ensure “we’re going to be in a posi­tion to more effec­tive­ly strength­en the secu­ri­ty of both of our nations and this region,” Oba­ma said.

It also will ensure an abil­i­ty to respond faster to crises and pro­vide human­i­tar­i­an and dis­as­ter relief, he said. “This will allow us to be able to respond in a more time­ly fash­ion and also equip a lot of … small­er coun­tries who may not have the same capac­i­ty,” he said. “It allows us to equip them so that they can respond more quick­ly as well.”

The expand­ed U.S.-Australia mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship also “sends a clear mes­sage of our com­mit­ment to this region, a com­mit­ment that is endur­ing and unwa­ver­ing” the pres­i­dent said.

“I am mak­ing it clear that the Unit­ed States is step­ping up its com­mit­ment to the entire Asia-Pacif­ic [region],” the pres­i­dent said, thank­ing Aus­tralia for its lead­er­ship role in the region.

“As it has been for six decades” he con­tin­ued, “our alliance is going to be indis­pens­able to our shared future, the secu­ri­ty we need and the pros­per­i­ty that we seek, not only in this region, but around the world.”

The talks in Aus­tralia spanned a range of chal­lenges that extend beyond the region, includ­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force mis­sion in Afghanistan, the pres­i­dent said.

“Obvi­ous­ly, this has not been an easy mis­sion for either of our coun­tries,” he said, express­ing con­do­lences for Australia’s fall­en. “But we both under­stand what’s at stake — what hap­pens when al-Qai­da has safe havens. We’ve seen the awful loss of life, from 9/11 to Bali.”

Oba­ma cit­ed progress in the tran­si­tion process in Afghanistan as secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty is trans­ferred to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

“But it’s impor­tant that we do it right,” he said. “Giv­en the enor­mous invest­ment that’s been made and the signs that we can, in fact, leave behind a coun­try that’s not per­fect, but one that is more sta­ble, more secure and does not pro­vide safe haven for ter­ror­ists, it’s appro­pri­ate for us to fin­ish the job and do it right.”

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