As the defence strategic review announcement and AUKUS submarine decision are pending, Canberra should develop clear, plain language that eschews euphemism when talking about the US’s forward posture and associated basing arrangements in Australia.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that the US will increase its military presence in Australia in a buildup aimed at China.
In a joint press conference with Australia’s defense minister and foreign minister, Austin said that the US will increase its rotational forces in Australia. “That includes rotations of bomber task forces, fighters, and future rotations of US Navy and US Army capabilities,” Austin said.
Many countries in the region are not eager to get on board with the US’s confrontational approach to China. The prime minister of Papua New Guinea said this week that his country can’t afford to get caught between the US and China and said he told the US your “enemy is not my enemy.”
Indonesia’s president expressed similar concerns during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November, saying the ASEAN must not let the region turn into a frontline for a new Cold War.
Details on the rotational deployments aren’t clear, but they will likely focus on the Australian city of Darwin in the Northern Territory, where US Marines have been rotating through for years.
Pine Gap is also undergoing a major upgrade
The US wants to store munitions and defence equipment in Australia’s Top End under a bilateral force posture review to better prepare the ANZUS allies for growing strategic threats from China.
Mr Goldman said geostrategic tensions required a more “innovative defence partnership” between Australia and the US, including co-production of precision-guided weapons on Australian soil.
He said a bilateral force posture review working group, established following last year’s AUSMIN talks, had met for the first time earlier this month to discuss “a wide range of contingencies”.
Mr Goldman said it was too early to provide details on any new initiatives, but said pre-positioning US weapons in Australia offered strategic advantages.
Mr Goldman’s comments follow the US government’s announcement last year of a $15m contract to build an earth-covered weapons magazine and munitions conveyor at RAAF Base Tindal, south of Darwin, as well as upgraded fuel storages.
More than $1b additional investment in making us reliant on the USA: major runway extensions, fuel stockpiles and engineering will be designed to support “Code E” large aircraft, such as US Air Force B-52 strategic bombers and RAAF KC-30 air-to-air refuellers.
Mr Morrison told The Australian the $1.1bn spending comes on top of almost $500m that had already been planned for Tindal.
Under the US Force Posture Initiative signed in 2011 by the Gillard government and Obama administration, the US and Australia committed to joint funding for military infrastructure projects of about $2bn.
This included an increase in the annual rotation of US marines through Darwin to about 2000. The Tindal program will be funded under Australia’s contribution, after the US announced it would spend $305m in upgrading infrastructure in Darwin
“These are (the) sorts of things you can do when you manage money well and invest in priorities of keeping Australia safe and building the capability of our defence forces.” #FFS