This report was commissioned by the United States Defense Department to provide an independent assessment of U.S. force posture in Asia. It examines multiple options for positioning US military forces in the Asia Pacific region, including the possibility of a naval base in Perth.
President Barack Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, or Public Law 112-81) in December 2012, setting in motion the requirement under Section 346 of the NDAA to commission a report on force posture and deployment plans of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). One week later, on January 5, 2012, the president released at the Department of Defense (DoD) a new Strategic Guidance document that directed a rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific region of military forces and national security efforts across the government. This guidance, and the Fiscal Year 2013 defense budget, marks only the beginning of force posture rebalancing. In March, DoD tasked the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to undertake that study, with a report due 180 days after enactment, or by the end of June, 2012.
At one level, PACOM force posture is tied to current deployments and activities in the region and to announced plans to modify such deployments. Chief among these are plans for replacing Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma and funding for additional military construction needed to transfer Marines from Okinawa to Guam. These plans are at the center of a logjam between DoD, which would like to implement them, and the Congress, which is reluctant to authorize funding absent better details about cost and long-term master plans. This report tackles those issues and proposes a way to break that logjam.
However, the stakes for the United States in the Asia Pacific region go well beyond the scope of military construction projects. This report focuses on the larger question of how to align U.S. force posture to overall U.S. national interests in the Asia Pacific region. Current U.S. force posture is heavily tilted toward Northeast Asia, to Korea and Japan, where it focuses properly on deterring the threats of major conflicts on the Korean peninsula, off Japan, and in the Taiwan Strait. However, as evidenced by recent Chinese activities in the South China Sea and throughout the Pacific islands, the stakes are growing fastest in South and Southeast Asia. To be successful, U.S. strategic rebalancing needs to do more in those areas, while simultaneously working with major allies in Northeast Asia to shore up deterrence capabilities in the wake of emerging anti-access and area denial (A2AD) threats.