In today’s complex and dynamic threat environment, military leaders must effectively employ limited resources to execute their country’s national security strategy. Proceedings asked sea-service commanders around the world: It is often said that a nation’s national defense decisions are ultimately derived from its own sovereign interests. Given this presumption, what are the global trends that most influence your national security decision making and how does your navy use its operating policies, alliances, and partnerships to address these trends?
Vice Admiral Ray Griggs
The growing economic strength and strategic weight in the Indo-Pacific region is the single most fundamental trend that is influencing Australia’s national-security decision making: The sheer number of people in the Indo-Pacific region makes this a global trend. The growing prosperity of the area leads to increased use of the global maritime trading system and a more outward-looking focus by many nations in the region. It also enables them to acquire military forces in line with their growing prosperity and their own national interests, which is a significant shift. A related trend is the growing demand for marine resources, such as offshore oil and gas, alternative energy generation (wind farms), and fish, both wild caught and farmed.
From an Australian perspective, there is a resultant shift in strategic thinking toward a more maritime outlook. Our enduring strategic geography is maritime, and so we must be able to operate across the sea, land, and air environments. We need to be able to maintain situational awareness and presence over very large areas of ocean.
For navies and maritime forces these are significant shifts; the sea is much more than the means of transport envisioned by Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Corbett, and our thinking must be agile enough to evolve as well. These shifts pose a new imperative to maintain good order at sea. The value of the great global commons is increasing as nations grow in their desire and capacity to utilize marine resources. The challenge for all nations and their maritime forces is thus both to cooperate in a task that is beyond the ability of any one nation to address alone and to provide options for governments to use naval diplomacy to ease tensions and manage competition. This can only be achieved by routine, repeatable, working-level engagement among mariners, which develops and maintains these habits of cooperation.
The Royal Australian Navy will be aiming to make its contribution to this process through its chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in 2014 and whenever other opportunities arise. Even though the challenges may be new, or posed in a new area or form, the means of addressing them are familiar: cooperation and collaboration in pursuit of mutual interests. It will require ongoing engagement as different maritime forces will have different experiences and motivations, and promoting constructive engagement is never a trivial task.