July 13, 2012 Donna Miles / American Forces Press Service – defpro.com
CANBERRA, Australia | The top U.S. officer in the Pacific region spent a full day of meetings here Jul. 12 with senior Australian military leaders exploring ways to continue to bolster the already-robust military-to-military relationship between the staunch allies.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, during his first visit here since taking command of U.S. Pacific Command in March, met with Australian Defense Chief Gen. David Hurley and his senior staff to discuss developments in the U.S.-Australian alliance that marked its 60th anniversary last year.
The Australians “have demonstrated themselves to be a very reliable partner with us in a lot of different areas,” Locklear told American Forces Press Service during the flight here. “They have done a lot to contribute to global security and they have been a good partner to the United States.”
Today’s talks included an assessment of the Marine Corps rotational deployments that began here this spring, officials said. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, with whom Locklear will meet July 13, announced that arrangement in November as part of an expanded military-to-military relationship between the two countries.
The Marines are serving six-month deployments between April and September, partnering with Australian forces and fanning out from their base at Australia’s Robertson Barracks outside Darwin throughout the region. The first rotation of Marines recently returned to Darwin after taking part in the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, or CARAT, exercise between the United States and Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and East Timor.
The concept, Locklear explained, is to bolster U.S. theater engagement in the Asia-Pacific -- a major goal in the new defense strategic guidance -- without the need for new infrastructure or permanent U.S. bases.
“This is part of our larger strategy in the Pacific to expand the places that we can operate with our allies and our partners and to have assurance that we are properly positioned to deal with the growing number of challenges,” he said.
Locklear and Hurley emphasized the importance of increasing interoperability as these force-posture initiatives unfold. This, they agreed, will ensure their militaries can work together more effectively and efficiency to deal with challenges ranging from natural disasters to cyber threats.
A new agreement, announced in September following the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations in San Francisco, encourages closer cooperation in confronting cyber threats operating in what U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called “the battlefield of the future.”
Locklear and Hurley both expressed their respective countries’ interest in promoting multilateral relationships, and ways they can support each others’ initiatives.
Locklear said today’s sessions and those to follow will set the stage for the next AUSMIN session, this fall in Australia, and for a chiefs of defense conference for regional military leaders that he and the Australians will co-host in November.
The admiral said he’s made a priority in his first months at Pacom to reach out to the five U.S. allies in the region. He recently traveled to Japan and South Korea, and is spending this week in Australia and the Philippines, with plans to visit Thailand as soon as possible.
“This is an indication of the significance and importance of these allies to our future security,” he said, emphasizing the importance of continuous communication to ensure those alliances remain strong and relevant.
In his closing comments today, Locklear thanked his Australian hosts for their long-standing friendship and support and the valuable insights they provide. This collaboration, he said, can only enhance the way the allies engage together and with other regional partners to promote security, stability and prosperity in the region.