Last January, US President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Panetta released a defense strategy emphasizing the United States’ role in the Asia-Pacific region. At heart, the rebalance is based on the recognition that the US is a Pacific nation whose security is inextricably tied to the security and prosperity of Asia. Over the last year, I have spent considerable time working with the uniformed and civilian leadership of the US Air Force to implement this new strategy in the face of fiscal challenges.
The US has enduring strategic and commercial interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Four of the world’s top six militaries (by budget) are in the region, which is home to 40% of the world’s population and more than half of gross global product. While US media discussions of the geostrategic role of Asia often focus almost entirely on rapidly growing economies like India and China, US military relationships in the region are every bit as much oriented toward longstanding partners with major defense capabilities like Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
We work to forge enduring regional partnerships in the interest of deterring conflict and protecting a rules-based international order. While military relationships are only one small piece of that effort, they help renew and sustain principles that have underwritten security and prosperity in the region for 60 years. These principles include: free and open commerce; access to the global commons; the rule of law; and resolving disputes without the use or threat of force.
For the US Air Force, the rebalance to the Pacific involves deepening relationships with existing and future strategic allies as we work together to secure the global commons. This requires collaborating to protect against transnational threats like terrorism, narcotraffickers and cyber criminals. It requires training together regularly to meet urgent demands for humanitarian assistance in the wake of natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and typhoons. It also requires that the US and key partners continue to invest in the capabilities required to be militarily relevant in a vast and increasingly developed part of the world including interoperable military hardware and command networks. Ensuring that the US Air Force and partner air forces in Asia can operate together effectively is crucial to our rebalanced strategy
Despite continued economic turmoil and a strained fiscal situation, the enduring interests of the US in the Asia-Pacific region are unlikely to change, nor will our commitment to the security of our allies and partners. The US will remain a Pacific power helping to ensure a secure and prosperous Asia-Pacific region, because security in the region is not a zero-sum game. The strategic rebalance that President Obama has begun is an opportunity to strengthen US-Asia relationships, enhance stability and increase shared prosperity across the region for years to come.
Translating these worthwhile goals into reality in a complex organization will continue to be a core challenge for me in coming years.
Jamie Morin is the Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer of the US Air Force. Since July 2012, he has also temporarily served as the Air Force’s Undersecretary. He was named one of 199 Young Global Leaders, Class of 2013, by the World Economic Forum.
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