Thank you, Brad, for that very kind introduction. You, Mark Dubowitz, Eric Edelman, and the other thought leaders at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies make invaluable contributions to America’s foreign policy discourse, and it is an honor to speak with you all today about one of the most pressing security challenges we face around the world: how we work with allies and partners to realize our shared vision of a free, open, and independent Indo-Pacific.
Nearly a decade ago, the previous Administration described an intended ‘pivot’ to Asia, but as we know, the ability of this nation to stay focused on the Indo-Pacific region tends to ebb and flow depending on conditions elsewhere in the world. Today, with an increasingly assertive People’s Republic of China flaunting international norms and bullying countries throughout the region, we require consistency in our focus and our efforts. We cannot expect our partners and allies to stand up to the PRC alone. Hence the necessity to build an interoperable network of allies and partners – and enhancing our partners’ security capabilities through the arms sales and security assistance processes.
U.S. policy regarding the Indo-Pacific region is bolstered by a set of core objectives: to promote freedom, openness, and cooperation is grounded in a rules-based international order- not coercion, corruption, and crime. The United States seeks a pluralistic Indo-Pacific, where each country is sovereign and independent.
Pursuing these core objectives requires a whole-of-government effort by the United States, in which trade, scientific, educational, and cultural exchange play a role alongside diplomatic and military relationships. As the Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, it is the latter which will be of focus today, but I want to be clear from the outset that security cooperation does not – cannot – exist in a vacuum, and everything my colleagues do within the PM Bureau, we do as part of a broader strategy, in close cooperation with our partners in the Departments of State and Defense, the Intelligence Community, USAID, the private sector, and beyond. With that clearly acknowledged, however, arms transfers and defense capacity building through security assistance are significant tools wielded by my Bureau and the entire interagency to promote foreign partners’ sovereignty and a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and are the subject of my discussion here today.
Let me set the stage for that discussion by stepping back from the specific geography and challenges of the Indo-Pacific and describing the broader context in which U.S. security cooperation occurs in this era of Great Power Competition. The key, really, is in that last word – competition.
America’s adversaries are not content to let us expand and deepen our global network of security partners uncontested. In particular, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia increasingly turn to arms sales as a strategy to exert influence abroad and attempt to erode U.S. security partnerships.
Where American systems appear too costly or slow to deliver, the PRC and Russia offer deceptively aggressive pricing and accessibility. Their cut-rate prices often mask predatory financing mechanisms, corrupt and coercive political demands, and the long-term costs of maintaining undependable sub-par systems. And their ability to deliver systems quickly often depends on providing “off-the-shelf” solutions, which may not even fulfill partners’ basic requirements, let alone partners’ specific bespoke requirements. Nonetheless, the offer of speedy delivery and cost-savings holds a powerful allure for many security partners.
Russia and the PRC also like to tout their purported respect for partners’ sovereignty and policies of noninterference in other nations’ internal affairs, drawing a contrast to the United States perennial concerns over the responsible end-use of U.S.-origin military equipment and partners’ respect for human rights. Where the United States offers consistent engagement and long-term commitment, our adversaries offer a transactional approach to security cooperation taking advantage of potential partners in need.
But make no mistake: our adversaries are not merely economic opportunists; they are strategic in their targeted marketing of systems like the S-400 to U.S. partners. Through major arms sales, Russia and the PRC seek to disrupt our ability to share advanced U.S. technologies and maintain interoperability with our partners. No surprise, our adversaries are using arms sales to drive a wedge between the U.S. our partners.
When they do manage to place their equipment and personnel alongside U.S. systems, our adversaries create opportunities to divert, exploit, steal, and otherwise misuse advanced U.S. technologies. Both the PRC and Russia are adept at using arms transfers as an entrée to gain access and collect intelligence.
To put these challenges in perspective, it is important to remember the United States remains far and away the world’s greatest provider of security, through both the presence of our global forces and the deterrence of our alliances; the single greatest provider of grant security assistance, to the tune of more than $15 billion a year between the Departments of State and Defense; and by far the most significant source of defensive equipment for countries around the world, with U.S. defense exports being almost double of Russia’s, and almost an order of magnitude greater than China’s.
But at the same time, we must be clear-eyed as to how security cooperation is an increasingly contested arena in the age of Great Power Competition, and the associated risks of our rivals gaining any ground.
It is as important as ever, then, for the United States not only to lift the veil on our strategic competitors and help partners understand the real risks of procuring systems from the PRC or Russia, but also to make the case for why partnering with America is the wiser option; the preferred option.
U.S. defense equipment remains the most capable in every warfighting domain, from the top flight F-35s we provide our closest allies to the life-saving armored vehicles we deliver to peacekeeping partners – to protect personnel against IED and other threats, which is more than can be said, sadly, for the armored personnel carriers Kenya procured from China a few years back, and which proved to be deeply vulnerable to IED attacks.
Second, the United States is committed to providing full-spectrum capabilities, not just equipment. Through the Foreign Military Sales process, the United States offers a “Total Package Approach” to security cooperation, which ensures foreign partners receive all the necessary training, education, and institutional capacity to effectively employ and sustain U.S.-origin defense equipment.
Third, our policies and processes are marked by transparency, accountability, and predictability. Yes, our processes are slower than we would like at times, despite the many strides we made to gain efficiencies as well as cost savings. But all arms transfers are vetted against the same factors, which anyone can read for themselves in President Trump’s Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy, and our decisions are made public – unlike star chamber determinations made in Moscow and Beijing.
Lastly, the United States views arms sales as significant tangible instruments of foreign policy and the start (or continuation) of a long-term security relationship. Whether a country commits to purchasing a military system from the U.S. government through our Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process or from U.S. industry through the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process, it is also entering into years of close security collaboration with the United States.
Within this context, and to counter the malign efforts by our adversaries, we are applying a set of strategies and tactics on a global or regional basis. First, and perhaps foremost, after ensuring the dominance of our own military forces, we seek to modernize and strengthen our alliances in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. The Department’s regional bureaus lead these broad diplomatic efforts, but my Bureau, Political-Military Affairs (PM) plays an important role in shaping their security components. At the recent Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations, for example, both sides signed a classified Statement of Principles on Alliance Defense Cooperation and Force Posture Priorities in the Indo-Pacific.
To ensure we are fully synchronized, PM leads a series of political-military dialogues with key partners, through which we encourage more equitable burden-sharing, strengthen the effectiveness of our investments, and identify precisely how we can best help increase partners’ resilience and capacity for self-defense. The pandemic impacted some of our plans this year, but we adapted and still conduct virtual dialogues like the one I co-chaired with Vietnam’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs just a few weeks ago.
PM also leads and oversees bilateral security negotiations with allies and partners around the world facilitating the movement, rotational presence, and logistical support of U.S. forces and materiel abroad and provide protections for U.S. service members, members of the civilian component, dependents, and U.S. contractors overseas. Some of these agreements are also host nation support related to help defray the costs of stationing U.S. forces overseas, as with Korea and Japan.
It is also within our national interest to actively promote American prosperity, and we actively enable our embassies to strenuously advocate for U.S. defense trade, both generally and for specific cases identified through the Defense Advocacy Working Group, whose mission is to enhance interagency support for defense exports and help level the playing field for America’s defense industry.
Returning to the focus of today’s event, which is our approach to the Indo-Pacific region, and how arms sales and security assistance fit into that approach, and align with our strategy. Simply summarized: Capabilities and Capacity.
Given the geography of the region, one set of challenges can be found in the maritime domain. Here, we are cooperating with partners across the Indo-Pacific region to maintain freedom of navigation and other lawful uses of the sea so that all nations can access and benefit from the maritime commons.
This includes nearly a billion dollars of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) from FY 2016 – FY 2020, in both bilateral allocations and in support of the Department’s regional programs such as the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative (SAMSI) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative, as well as a plus-up in FY 2018 in support of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. These programs provide training and equipment enabling South and Southeast Asian countries to better detect threats, share information, and respond collectively to natural and man-made crises.
Congress also authorized a new State Department authority in FY 2020—the Countering Chinese Influence Fund (CCIF)—which includes $50 million for FMF and $25 million for Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related (NADR) programs. While it is not limited to the Indo-Pacific, we are currently reviewing proposals for projects that counter Chinese malign influence globally. Over the same period, the Department of Defense’s Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) and “Section 333” funds provided nearly $858.3 million for maritime security, counter-narcotics, and counter-terrorism capacity in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance information sharing, interoperability, and multinational maritime cooperation. We are providing new advisors to enhance maritime security and defense reforms in the Pacific Islands and develop cyber policy and governance frameworks in Mongolia. We also continue to work with our ASEAN partners and allies to build maritime domain awareness and combat maritime transnational crime through the Southeast Asian Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative.
Over the past two years, we welcomed historic firsts in our maritime cooperation. In May 2019, the U.S. Navy, alongside Japan, India, and Philippines participated in the first group sail through the South China Sea. In September 2019, we co-hosted with Thailand the first U.S.-ASEAN maritime exercise to strengthen relationships and information sharing between the navies of ASEAN nations and the United States.
Beyond this, each partner in the Indo-Pacific faces a discrete set of challenges deserving of a tailored set of solutions reflecting the challenges and current capabilities of each nation.
The U.S. has over $20 billion in active government-to-government sales cases with Japan, more than $30 billion in active government-to-government sales cases with Korea, and over $26 billion in active sales with Australia – in each case driven entirely by host nation-generated requirements. Japan, for example, recently requested an additional 105 Joint Strike Fighters valued at $23.11 billion which would be the second largest single FMS case ever authorized by the Department, and Japan’s other major procurements reflect the self-defense needs of an island chain in a challenging neighborhood, including E-2D Airborne Early Warning Aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey Tilt-rotor aircraft, and SM-3 Block IIA Ballistic Missile Defense interceptor missiles. For Seoul, whose pressing need is to deter North Korean aggression, major recent purchases included the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, P-8A Patrol Aircraft, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile systems, Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, KF-16 aircraft Upgrades, Aegis Combat Systems, Harpoon Missiles, and AH-64E Attack Helicopters. And for Australia, major sales include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the C-17 Globemaster, Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs), AEGIS Combat System components, and ongoing support for their fleet of F/A-18 Hornets.
In Taiwan, our partner faces increasing aggression and pressures from the PRC. Consistent with the policy articulated in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, we make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. In conjunction with DoD, we continuously assess Taiwan’s defense requirements and consult with Congress in carrying out this policy, as required. It is in the strategic interest of the United States to provide the capabilities we assess make sense for Taiwan in the context of its asymmetric and innovative security approach. Based on our assessment of the increased PRC threat, over the past three years the Trump Administration implemented over $15 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.”. In addition, direct commercial sales authorizations during this period totaled over $1 billion.
Along the South China Sea, the Philippines received approximately $276 million in foreign military financing (averaging about $45 million annually) since 2016. The Philippines faces a dual challenge of maritime incursions by the PRC, traffickers, and terrorists, as well as a decades long counterterrorism campaign in the south. As such, our FMF supports the Philippines’ maritime security capabilities, including fleet upgrades, support for aerial reconnaissance capabilities, and development of a C4 intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisition, and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) network as well as the Philippines’ disaster response and CT capacity. Moreover, under the Excess Defense Articles program, the United States has transferred three Secretary-Class High-Endurance Cutters, one C-130 and 20 UH-1 aircraft, 114 armored tanks, 300 M-35 2.5-ton trucks, 30,000 M-16 rifles, several patrol craft, and other defense articles. Demonstrating the effectiveness of this assistance, the Philippines’ FMF-funded High Endurance Cutters (WHECs) regularly patrol the South China Sea in support of the Philippines’ maritime claims.
In Vietnam, we find a security relationship with the United States growing rapidly in recent years as we built a common vision for the future of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. From FY2016 – FY2019, Vietnam received more than $150 million in State Department-funded security assistance under FMF. Over $58 million in bilateral FMF supported the transfer and refurbishment of two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters to Vietnam under the Excess Defense Articles program. These vessels represent the most significant major defense transfer between the United States and Vietnam, and are currently the largest vessels in Vietnam’s military FMF also funded the acquisition of 24 45-ft Metal Shark fast patrol boats, the final six of which were delivered in May 2020. Our efforts, both sales and grants, enhanced Vietnam’s maritime domain awareness, increased their capability to patrol their own territorial waters, and helped them to maintain the rights and freedoms specified under the international law of the sea.
And, of course, moving even further west, one cannot forget the Indo- in Indo-Pacific. On the subcontinent, we are working to deepen our partnership with India, and to strengthen India’s defensive capabilities. Accounting for China’s growing provocations along the Line-of-Actual Control since May, and the deadly encounter at Galwan in mid-June that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, India knows all too well its neighbor to the north has little regard for respecting the status quo along the border.
U.S.-India defense cooperation has undergone a rapid transformation over the last decade. The Trump Administration’s Indo-Pacific vision identifies India as a key security partner in the Indo-Pacific, commensurate with its status as a Major Defense Partner. At the last 2+2 ministerial dialogue, India and the United States committed to further expand military-to-military cooperation, including through the Quadrilateral mechanism with Japan and Australia.
President Trump visited India in February 2020 where, in addition to announcing more than $3 billion in new defense trade sales, both sides committed to continue to strengthen security cooperation between our two countries. In addition to arms sales, the Political-Military Bureau overseas peacekeeping cooperation and we are very proud of growing peacekeeping partnership with India, including joint capacity building initiatives with third country partners.
The United States authorized to India more than $18 billion in Foreign Military Sales since 2008 and at least $3 billion in Direct Commercial Sales since 2015. India today operates the second largest fleets of C-17 and P-8I aircraft behind the United States. During President Trump’s visit to India in February, India agreed to purchase MH-60R ($2.81 billion) and AH-64E helicopters ($796 million) and the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure ($189 million). The defense relationship is not without challenges, however, the positive trajectory of our defense relationship is grounded in strong bipartisan support in both New Delhi and Washington. With such support, it is no exaggeration to declare India will prove to be a greater partner in achieving security, governance, and economic objectives in the Indo-Pacific region.
The U.S. desires a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all countries prosper side by side as sovereign, independent states, based on values underpinning peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific for generations. Free, fair, and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, good governance, and freedom of the seas are goals shared by all who wish to prosper in a free and open fashion.
In this context, arms transfers and defense capacity building efforts in the region, carefully tailored to match the requirements and capabilities of our partners and allies in the region, serve to enhance partner sovereignty, advance American national security objectives, and, particularly in the context of Great Power Competition, ensure a free, open, rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.
Thank you, and I look forward to the discourse.