WASHINGTON --- Defense Secretary Ash Carter discussed the importance of establishing and maintaining security networks with partner nations to confront global threats during a speech to the Center for a New American Security here today.
Carter focused on the security networks the United States has forged in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and in Europe.
Overall, such networks enable nations to act together to deter conflict, provide protection and meet transnational threats such as terrorism, the secretary said. “Now, security networking does differ across regions,” he added, “and that makes sense, because each has its own unique history, geography, politics and security needs.”
Networking for Security
The Asia-Pacific networks are based on weaving together bilateral, trilateral and multilateral relationships into a larger, regionwide network, Carter said, noting that there has never been a regionwide security arrangement there in the past.
“In the Middle East and North Africa, we’re leading coalitions and networks to address key security challenges like [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] and other terror groups, and to counter Iran’s malign influence,” the secretary said.
In Europe, the United States is working within the NATO alliance to bolster deterrence, handle unregulated migration and confront threats in new domains.
“In each region, the basic principle is the same,” Carter said. “We’re bringing together like-minded partners to enhance cooperation and build and strengthen connections,” he said. “And in each region, the network needs a networker -- a nation and a military to enable it.”
Connections take many forms, the secretary said. “For one, we’re sharing information, including intelligence, in new ways, to allow our militaries to communicate better and in real time so that we can work together seamlessly and quickly,” he told the audience. “More and more, we’re leveraging persistent rotational forces that allow us to project presence without the requirements of permanent footprints.”
The United States and its networked allies also are improving interoperability to ensure that militaries can work with and off of the same platforms, the secretary said.
The Asia-Pacific region has never had a grand alliance on par with NATO, Carter noted.
“It has been the United States’ and the [Asia-Pacific] region’s strong, but largely separate bilateral, relationships that have helped ensure security and stability for more than 70 years,” he said. “That’s enabled countries throughout the region to make incredible economic and human progress.”
Years of peace, stability and economic opportunity have enabled Asia-Pacific nations to raise their standards of living -- including China and India, Carter said.
“The U.S. role is in service of a principled and inclusive network: a network in tune not only with the times, but also the region’s history,” he said. “The network is principled because it stands for, and in defense of, the principles our countries have collectively promoted and upheld for decades, such as the freedom of navigation and overflight. And it’s inclusive because the network is aimed at no nation and excludes no one.”
The United States has leveraged bilateral relationships into trilateral and multilateral relations, Carter said. The United States and Japan, the U.S. and South Korea, the U.S. and the Philippines, the U.S. and Australia, he said, all have set examples of ways to work together for collective security.
The growing ties between the United States and India and the United States and Vietnam also indicate realization in the region for the need for a more collective approach, Carter said.
“These growing relationships demonstrate that nations across the Asia-Pacific are committed to doing more to promote continued regional security and prosperity,” the secretary said. “And they show that the United States is using its unique capabilities, experience and influence to stand with them and network [with] them to meet common challenges and ensure continued regional security and stability.”
Carter emphasized that America’s relationships across the Asia-Pacific region are not aimed at China.
“Although we have disagreements with China, especially over its destabilizing behavior in the South China Sea, we’re committed to working with them and to persuading them to avoid self-isolation,” he said. “That is one reason why we’ll continue to pursue a stronger bilateral military-to-military relationship with our colleagues in China, including later this month at [the Rim of the Pacific exercise], which China will participate in again this summer.”
The security network in the Middle East and North Africa has a totally different threat to confront, Carter said, noting the United States is focused Iran and ISIL in the region. He said the nuclear deal with Iran is working, but that Iran continues its disturbing course in other ways.
“Because of its reckless and destabilizing behavior in that part of the world, the Defense Department remains full speed ahead -- in our investments, our planning, and our posture -- to ensure we deter Iranian aggression, counter Iran’s malign influence and uphold our ironclad commitments to our regional friends and allies, especially Israel,” Carter said.
ISIL threatens U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East and North Africa, and has inspired attacks in the homeland, the secretary said. Carter described the strategy to defeat the terror group and discussed the security network that’s centered on defeating terrorists.
“The U.S. military has also been taking action abroad with a 30-member military coalition to destroy ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “Beyond those two countries, we’re also building a transregional network of anti-terror nodes to counter ISIL and other terror groups wherever they metastasize -- in the Middle East, in North Africa, in South Asia, or elsewhere.”
The counter-ISIL network, the secretary said, has trained some 23,000 Iraqi security forces and provided local partners with more than eight full brigade sets of equipment -- including ammunition; small, medium, and heavy weapons; and equipment to counter improvised explosive devices.
“For our part, the Defense Department is bringing to bear in the fight against ISIL every element of our military power: special operators, conventional forces, air assets, intelligence and surveillance, cyber and space capabilities, logistics and sustainment,” Carter said.
Partnering With Others to Fight, Defeat ISIL
President Barack Obama ordered the military to accelerate operations against ISIL, and part of that effort is predicated on encouraging network allies to do more, the secretary said.
“We’ll keep adapting with our growing network and our strengthening network of coalition partners,” he said. “Because the enemy frequently takes the form of a network itself, it must be fought in that way.”
One important step involves Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Carter said, noting the general has highlighted transnational threats since he took office in October.
“We have to change how the Defense Department works, and is structured, to ensure better transregional and transfunctional integration and advice,” the secretary said, adding that the responsibility for integration among the combatant commands is inadequately supported by the formal authority of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“That’s why, in some of our proposed improvements to the 30-year-old Goldwater-Nichols Act, we want to clarify the role and authority of the chairman to, among other things, help the secretary of defense synchronize resources globally for daily operations around the world, enhancing the department’s flexibility and ability to move forces rapidly across the seams between our combatant commands,” he said. “I want to commend Chairman Dunford -- who has been leading these critically important efforts.”
Europe has the strongest collective security apparatus of any region anchored by NATO, the secretary said. “NATO has for over 67 years been the quintessential example of nations working together, and networking together, to respond to security challenges,” Carter said.
But the alliance faces new threats, such as from Russia and on Europe’s southern flank, he said. The alliance, he added, also is working in Afghanistan and against ISIL.
Helping NATO Adapt to New Challenges
“In the face of these challenges, the Defense Department is helping NATO adapt and network so it can meet and overcome this era’s challenges to the interests and values of this family of nations,” Carter said.
Russia is disturbing the peace in Eastern Europe, the secretary told the audience. “The United States is taking a strong and balanced approach to address Russia’s aggression,” Carter said. “We’re strengthening our capabilities, our posture, our investments, our plans and our allies and partners, all while still keeping the door open to working with Russia where our interests align.”
NATO cannot continue using a 20-thcentury playbook, the secretary said.
“That’s why NATO’s adapting and writing a new playbook,” he said. “That playbook takes the lessons of history and leverages our alliance’s strengths in new, networked ways to counter new challenges, like cyber and hybrid warfare, to integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence, and to adjust our posture and presence so we can be more agile and responsive.”
Networked security will be key to defense moving forward, Carter said. He noted that America has many friends around the globe with which to network, while potential adversaries have few.
“These inclusive, principled security networks will continue to contribute to national, regional, and global security and help uphold the principled international order,” the secretary said.