U.S., Australia Agree to Cooperation Initiatives

MELBOURNE, Aus­tralia, Nov. 8, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today announced the estab­lish­ment of a new bilat­er­al work­ing group to devel­op options for enhanced U.S.-Australian coop­er­a­tion on Aus­tralian soil, and signed a new part­ner­ship agree­ment with his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part that will pro­vide improved intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance capa­bil­i­ties.

Speak­ing at a joint news con­fer­ence with Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd and Defense Min­is­ter Stephen Smith fol­low­ing the Australian-U.S. Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­sul­ta­tions, Gates cit­ed these devel­op­ments as evi­dence of a close alliance shap­ing itself for the future.

The new work­ing group, expect­ed to begin work next month, will “look at the array of enhanced, joint activ­i­ties we might be able to under­take” with the Aus­tralians, Gates said. The group will explore areas such as greater U.S. naval pres­ence and port vis­its in the region, more mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and the pre-posi­tion­ing of U.S. human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief equip­ment in Aus­tralia. The group also will look into oppor­tu­ni­ties to base U.S. mil­i­tary mem­bers in Aus­tralia to work direct­ly with their Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts.

“I expect that the joint work­ing group will put a num­ber of things on the table,” Gates said dur­ing a round­table ses­sion with reporters fol­low­ing the news con­fer­ence. “The first thing that we have to see is … ‘What is use­ful to both coun­tries from a mil­i­tary stand­point and a stand­point of pre­pared­ness, espe­cial­ly for nat­ur­al dis­as­ters?’ ”

Gates said that it’s far too soon to pre­dict what rec­om­men­da­tions the group may make.

“The truth is, we are right at the begin­ning of this process, and not only has noth­ing been decid­ed, noth­ing for­mal has even been put on paper between the two coun­tries, as far as I know,” he said.

Any force pos­ture deci­sions would be made with­in the con­text of the ongo­ing Defense Depart­ment eval­u­a­tion of its force pos­ture and glob­al pres­ence. Gates said he has yet to decide what rec­om­men­da­tions he will make to the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and the pres­i­dent, but he made clear he sees a greater U.S. pres­ence in Asia and the Pacif­ic.

“We have no inter­est in any new bases in the region, but rather, look­ing at how we can make bet­ter use, enhanced use of what we have,” he said.

Also today, Gates and Smith signed a Space Sit­u­a­tion­al Aware­ness Part­ner­ship state­ment of prin­ci­ples that will expand defense space coop­er­a­tion between the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia.

Under the part­ner­ship agree­ment, the two coun­tries will estab­lish ground-based radar and opti­cal sta­tions to track satel­lites and oth­er orbital objects pass­ing over the Asia-Pacif­ic region. This will enable Aus­tralia to sup­port the U.S. Space Sur­veil­lance Net­work in pro­vid­ing more accu­rate warn­ing of poten­tial col­li­sions between manned space­craft, the inter­na­tion­al space sta­tion, satel­lites and oth­er space debris and to track objects falling to Earth over Aus­tralia or the region.

The sen­sors also will pro­vide infor­ma­tion on whether cer­tain actions in space are delib­er­ate or acci­den­tal, and trace the source of those actions, accord­ing to a min­is­te­r­i­al con­sul­ta­tions fact sheet.

“Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States shared a deep con­cern about the increas­ing­ly inter­de­pen­dent, con­gest­ed, and con­test­ed nature of out­er space and acknowl­edged that pre­vent­ing behav­iors that could result in mishaps, mis­per­cep­tions or mis­trust was a high pri­or­i­ty ” a joint com­mu­nique issued after the ses­sion not­ed.

In addi­tion, rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the con­sul­ta­tions agreed to step up their col­lab­o­ra­tion to pro­mote their shared nation­al inter­ests in cyber­space. This includes a com­mit­ment to work togeth­er to advance the devel­op­ment of inter­na­tion­al norms for cyber­space.

Gates praised the sol­id U.S.-Australia alliance and how it is trans­form­ing to new chal­lenges and threats. “In the defense are­na, our ties are long­stand­ing and deep,” he said.

Not­ing the long his­to­ry of U.S. engage­ment in Asia and the Pacif­ic, Gates said the Unit­ed States remains com­mit­ted to the region.

“We are a Pacif­ic pow­er,” he said. “We have reen­gaged in a major way, and now we are look­ing at the next steps.”

Clin­ton called the min­is­te­r­i­al con­sul­ta­tions a valu­able ses­sion and thanked Aus­tralia for its help­ing the Unit­ed States strength­en its region­al archi­tec­ture.

“We are not doing any­thing dif­fer­ent­ly to any sig­nif­i­cant degree,” she said. “We are mere­ly tak­ing stock of what we’re going to be need­ing to do in the future, so that we are well-pre­pared and work­ing close­ly with our friends and allies.”

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

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