By DoD News
By Jim Garmone
The Australia-U.S. alliance is stronger today than it ever has been, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today, and the steps taken during the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations at the State Department are aimed at keeping it that way.
Austin was joined in the discussions by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Defense Minister Peter Dutton and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who hosted the gathering.
They discussed the way forward for what Austin calls “the unbreakable alliance.” The two countries have been “mates” on battlefields stretching back to the Battle of Hamel in World War I, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The meeting follows the announcement yesterday of a new alliance of Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. that will provide nuclear-powered submarines to the Royal Australian Navy. This will give Australia a capability to field quieter and faster subs to help keep the peace in the Indo-Pacific. The deal will open other doors to cooperation between the close allies.
Austin has served with Australian service members and praised their professionalism, skills and bravery on many battlefields.
“Today, we still stand shoulder-to-shoulder as mates, ready to face the challenges and the opportunities of the future,” Austin said. “That’s what this new trilateral security partnership between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia is all about. … An important first step for AUKUS will be our efforts to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. This will significantly improve the Australian Navy’s reach and defensive capabilities. It will also help contribute to what I call ‘integrated deterrence’ in the region — the ability for the United States military to work more effectively with our allies and partners in defense of our shared security interests.”
While there are some differences, the two nations share security concerns including terrorism, climate change and the increasingly contested environment in the Indo-Pacific — all discussed in today’s meetings. “We spoke in detail about China’s destabilizing activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries contrary to established rules and norms,” Austin said. “While we seek a constructive, results-oriented relationship with the PRC [People’s Republic of China], we will remain clear-eyed in our view of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order.”
Reaching out to allies is the best way to ensure peace in the Indo-Pacific and globally, Payne said at the conclusion of the discussions. “As we face a prolonged period of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, we are now expanding this network — the AUKUS trilateral security partnership, being the latest example of that,” she said. “Indeed, Australia and the United States are continually identifying new ways to work together in our region according to our values and interests and in concert with existing and new partners.”
She noted that she and Dutton had spoken with Indonesian, Indian and Korean leaders as they traveled to Washington.
Dutton said the discussions went a long way to ensuring the alliance is ready for the challenges ahead. “Australia and the United States will be significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia.”
The Australians will also establish combined logistics sustainment capabilities for maintenance to support the enhanced activities. These will include logistics and sustainment capabilities for submarines and surface combatants in Australia. “These key activities will be complemented by conducting more bilateral exercises and greater combined exercise engagement with partners in the region,” he said.
“It’s only getting stronger,” Austin said of the depth and breadth of the Australia-U.S. alliance. He noted that the two defense leaders yesterday signed a statement of intent to expand efforts to co-develop advanced defense capabilities.
“We agreed to take immediate steps to improve interoperability through deeper integration,” he said. “And we reaffirmed our commitment to expanding multilateral efforts, especially with Japan through that trilateral defense ministers meeting and also with India.”
The ties between the U.S. and Australia are related to more than just military or security needs, Blinken said. The two nations share a world view and values. “We share our commitment to democracy and the rule of law,” he said. “We stand up for human rights and stand together against threats to democratic governance, including state-sponsored disinformation. We work together to help neighbors in the Indo-Pacific and take on urgent global challenges.
“We’re deeply grateful for our friendship with Australia,” he continued. “We’re eager to continue to work closely together for the next 70 years and beyond to ensure a bright and hopeful future for Australians, for Americans, for people across the region.”