America's military faces reductions in force and spending that could have a ripple effect. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world's sea services: Some see U.S. global naval engagement diminishing and the world's power structure realigning itself over the coming decade. In what ways would this affect your navy?
Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper noted that the United States “will remain the most powerful and influential strategic actor over the period to 2030—politically, economically and militarily.” Since then, the global economic crisis has changed the relative strengths of many of the countries in Australia’s region in unforeseen ways, but that assessment of 2009 remains fundamentally true. The association between the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the U.S. Navy is our most important strategic relationship and will remain so for the coming decade and beyond.
Australia’s strategic outlook will continue to be shaped by the global distribution of power and the increasingly interconnected underlying patterns of economic power and influence. Globalization already has led the world’s navies to new paradigms of cooperation, perhaps best exemplified today by the Coalition—25-plus navies, including the RAN, that are allied in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. That new paradigm is also reflected in the ongoing development of existing multilateral forums such as the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, and the establishing of new regional forums such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. Those two forums now allow for some 40 separate navies to discuss issues of mutual concern. The historic ability of navies to operate together closely at sea regardless of nationality or language means that navies are well-placed to be in the van of new multilateral groupings that emphasize shared strategic priorities.
A secure region—part of a stable, rules-based global security order—is intrinsic to Australia’s national security. If there were any diminution in U.S. naval engagement over the coming decade it would only reinforce the RAN’s requirement to be fully engaged in its region and to play its part in dealing with global security challenges. To meet this requirement the RAN currently is developing a balanced force as part of a broader defense capability that will include the Canberra-class amphibious assault ships, the Hobart-class DDGs already under construction, and the future doubling—from six to twelve—of its fleet of long-range conventional submarines. Plans also are under way to replace the current frigate force with multi-role platforms optimized for antisubmarine warfare and a new class of vessels that will be able to undertake mine warfare, hydrographic, and patrol and constabulary work from a single hull with adaptable mission fits.
The RAN remains committed to fulfilling the role entrusted to it, and continues to value the strong partnerships it has developed with many of the world’s navies.