Wednesday, April 6, 2016

BIFF tried but failed to prevent return of displaced families in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): BIFF tried but failed to prevent return of displaced families in Maguindanao

Outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tried, but failed, to prevent the hoisting of Philippine flag in a village they used to occupy and control for several years.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu led government troops and local officials in bringing back the displaced families to the respective communities after the Philippine flag was raised and now flying in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, the former bailiwick of BIFF captured by government forces.

The village was used by the BIFF in staging harassment against government troops in Datu Salibo ang nearby municipalities.

As government officials arrived in the village, the BIFF from across the river fire at state security forces, triggering a 30-minute fire fight. The bandits fled when the Army fired artillery to drive them away.

Pangilinan told local residents that the government will protect them and the flagship project aimed at saving farming villages from floods during rainy season.

The Datu Salibo conflict erupted on Feb. 5 when BIFF harassed private construction workers of a PHP58 million flood control project that would pass Barangay Tee, Sambolawan and nearby areas.

That harassment triggered month-long fire fight.

”We are here to protect you and the government project, once it is completed, our soldiers will leave the area,” Pangilinan told the locals.

He said government soldiers offered their live and limbs in protecting the community from bandits, evening suffering death and injuries to combatants.

”We are working with the provincial government to make this community free from lawlessness, we will help rebuild schools because your children will benefit from it and they need it,” he said.

Mangudadatu, on the other hand, explained to the residents that the coming of the military in the village was not to harm residents but to protect the project which will eventually benefit the people.

He vowed to push for the establishment of more public schools in the area because “I am convinced education is vital to your children’s future.”

About 9,104 families have returned to their barangays in five towns of Datu Salibo, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Talayan and Shariff Saydona.

The government, through the Philippine National Red Cross, have extended assistance to the returning evacuees.

The Omnibus Election Code prohibits local officials, especially those running for public office, to distribute assistance during calamity at the time of campaign period. It says the Red Cross can do the job.

RP-US starts joint community efforts under BK 16 in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): RP-US starts joint community efforts under BK 16 in Palawan

Joint “shoulder-to-shoulder” community efforts under the RP-US Balikatan 2016 (BK 16) kicked off in this city Thursday morning with a book donation, and reading and teaching English at the Wescom Elementary School (WES) inside the Western Command Compound in Barangay San Manuel.

Captain Cherryl Tindog, public information officer of the WESCOM, said joint community services between RP-US soldiers actually started April 4 and will end April 15.

Since April 4, RP-US soldiers participating in BK 16 in this city have already started preliminary work in five different school sites and have engaged in community medical projects that Tindog said have led to information exchanges.

The book distribution will be followed by a First Aid Disaster Response, Sanitation, Hygiene Nutrition and Community Health Education Training on April 11 in barangays Inagawan, Mangingisda, Luzviminda, Kamuning and Inagawan-Sub in Puerto Princesa.

There will also be a three-day Tactical Combat and Casualty Care Training at the Marquez Hall, 570th Antonio Bautista Air Base and the Western Command. The exact date for this was not disclosed.

Other cooperative community projects and field activities will be held too, in barangays Bacungan, Napsan, Simpocan, Cabayugan, Marufinas, and New Panggangan.

RP-US armed forces began the 32nd iteration of the BK 16 on April 4 comprised of 5,000 American service members; 3,500 Filipino soldiers; and around 80 Australian Defense Force (ADF), according to Defense Press Operations Director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis in Washington in the website of the US Department of Defense.

He was quoted in saying that BK 16 “is the premier bilateral training exercise between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.”

He added “that the major U.S. military participating units include the 3rd Marine Division, elements of the 3rd Marine Logistics Group and the 1st Marine Air Wing, the Army’s 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.”

BK 16 is designed to escalate interoperability between the US and Filipino soldiers by way of joint military operations, and to strengthen ties between the two countries.

It focuses on three simultaneous events through a single scenario across the Philippine islands of Luzon, Palawan and Panay, he added.

This year’s Balikatan will center on the two countries’ soldiers participating on trainings on disaster relief, crisis response, and humanitarian civic action projects, including dental and veterinary services and engineering civic access.

Outgoing AFP chief visits Eastern Mindanao Command

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Outgoing AFP chief visits Eastern Mindanao Command
Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri made his last official visit to the Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) Wednesday.

Iriberri was received by EMC chief Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero and his staff and accorded military honors.

During his visit, he lauded the EMC for its efforts in winning and securing the peace in eastern Mindanao.

He reminded the troops about their role in the coming May polls, emphasizing that the Filipinos trust the AFP to make the elections safe and secure.

“Continue doing your job. Gawin lang natin palagi ang tama nang ang ating mga kababayan ay mamuhay ng payapa,” Iriberri said.

Following his visit in EMC, he also visited the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division and 25th Infantry Battalion, his former unit in Davao Del Sur in 2001.

Iriberri, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, will retire from the service on April 22 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

He was appointed as AFP chief last July 10, 2015.

'Rido' eyed as motive in abduction of 6 saw mill workers in LDS

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): 'Rido' eyed as motive in abduction of 6 saw mill workers in LDS
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is looking into 'rido' as one of the possible motives behind the abduction of six saw mill operators by members of the Maute Group in Butig town, Lanao Del Sur on Monday.

This was disclosed by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri on Thursday.

"We are looking at two angles (regarding the abduction of the saw mill workers), one is 'rido' (clan feud) and the other one is that the victims provided help to the military during operations. We are still to confirm this yet," he said in Filipino.

Iriberri added authorities are still to receive any ransom demands from the suspects.p>The incident took place at 11:00 a.m. on Monday at Purok 4, Barangay Sandab.

The victims, who were snatched at gunpoint, were identified as Tado Hanobas; Buloy Hanobas; Makol Hanobas; Gabriel Hanobas; Adonis Mendez; and a certain Isoy.

All of them are employees of a saw mill operated by one Haja Anisa Gunda.

Three of the suspects were identified as Masuri Mimbantas, Asrap Gunda and Alikasan Panolong, reportedly members of the Maute Group.

All six victims were taken by the to Camp Darul Iman of same barangay.

Abra SB bet killed over Reds’ campaign fee

From the Manila Times (Apr 6): Abra SB bet killed over Reds’ campaign fee

A Sangguniang Bayan (SB) candidate in Baay-Licuan town in Abra was killed by alleged New Peoples Army (NPA) guerillas on Tuesday afternoon over his alleged refusal to pay the P20,000 permit-to-campaign fee imposed by the rebels.

Crispin Maguelang was reportedly taken by the rebels from his house in the village of Dominglay, Baay-Licuan and brought to a remote barangay, Bayabas, in Malibcong town, where he was shot dead.

The killing, the first execution perpetrated by the NPA over fees exacted to politicians campaigning in the supposed rebel-controlled areas, came a day before Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ricardo Marquez visited Abra, which was earlier declared among the election watchlist areas (EWAs).
Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Ulysses Abellera, quoting reports from the military stationed in Licuan-Baay and Malibcong towns, said Maguelang was attending a wedding when the alleged rebels took him and brought him to the house of Estimo Balug, where he was shot three times on the abdomen.

A letter was reportedly left by the rebels to the village chairman in Bayabas before fleeing.

Maguelang’s body was initially brought to Barangay Buneg in nearby Lacub town, and later to Bangued, Abra’s capital town.

The victim’s political ally in the National Unity Party (NUP), Abra congressional bet Joseph Sto. Niño Bernos, who is the incumbent mayor of La Paz, strongly condemned the killing and demanded justice.

Also in December, Bernos’ closest political aide – Noel Belena – was felled by assassins’ bullets while on his way home to La Paz town. No positive developments have resulted in the probe.

There was no statement from the Abra-based Agustin Begnalen Command of the CPP-NPA on Maguelang’s murder, but Abellera said the military has indicated that he was taken because of his “sins with the NPA”.

Suspected NPA rebels ambush local candidate in Abra

From GMA News (Apr 7): Suspected NPA rebels ambush local candidate in Abra

[Video report]

A candidate for councilor from Licuan-Baay, Abra was shot dead on Wednesday afternoon in an ambush by alleged members of the New People's Army (NPA).

Crispin Maguelang, 49 years old and a member of the National Unity Party, was on his way home from attending a wedding when suspected NPA members gunned him down, a report from GMA News stringer Argie Lorenzo aired on GMA News TV's State of the Nation on Wednesday said.

Maguelang suffered six gunshot wounds all over his body.

In a letter attached to Maguelang's corpse, the NPA noted their grievances on the councilor allegedly linked to illegal fishing, illegal logging, military intelligence, and the Licuan-Baay massacre.

Seano, Magwellang's sibling, immediately condemned the attack and denied any involvement of the councilor from any of NPA's allegations.

The Abra Provincial Police Office said that investigations are ongoing to identify the suspects.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, meanwhile, expressed dismay that the ambush occurred despite ongoing PNP operations in the province.

Marquez visited Abra for a meeting with local politicians and stakeholders regarding preparations for the May 9 elections.

Abra is included in the PNP's election watchlist since it has a history of election-related violence and intense political rivalry.

In AFP, ‘sacking’ now means ‘streamlining’

From Malaya Business Insight (Apr 7): In AFP, ‘sacking’ now means ‘streamlining’

THE Armed Forces is re-organizing its force structure in the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi amid the spate of kidnapping incidents perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf, a military spokesman said yesterday.

Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, said the streamlining caused the relief of Brig. Generals Alan Arrojado and Jose Cabanban as commander and deputy commander, respectively, of the Joint Task Group Sulu.

Arrojado and Cabanban will retain their other posts as commanders of the Army’s 501st Brigade and 2nd Marine Brigade. The two brigades are under the operational control of the Joint Task Group Sulu.

The new commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, in concurrent capacity, is Maj. Gen. Gerry Barientos, chief of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

Tan said Navy Capt. Harry John Delgado has been also relieved as commander of the Joint Task Group Tawi-Tawi. Delgado will retain his other position of deputy commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao,

The new Joint Task Group Tawi-Tawi commander, also in concurrent capacity, is Rear Adm. Jorge Amba, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.
Tan said Barientos and Amba were given the additional posts “as part of this headquarters’ effort to streamline our ongoing operations, ensure coverage of all operational areas and synchronize current efforts.”

“This is to allow our brigade commanders to focus on assigned tasks in light of new security challenges in the area,” he added.

He also said the changes are expected to “bring concrete results to our efforts,” referring to the continuing operations against the Abu Sayyaf and the rescue of foreign and Filipino hostages the terrorist group is holding.

He said Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz decided to re-organized the force structure in the two provinces “for better command and control” in these areas.

Tan noted that as concurrent commanders of the 1st ID and Naval Forces Western Mindanao, Barientos and Amba have better flexibility to redeploy forces to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“Our concentration now is Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. We are intensifying our operations in these areas… We want a better command and control,” Tan said.

Government forces stepped up operations against the Abu Sayyaf in November last year, following the beheading of a Malaysian captive in Sulu.

Asked if the streamlining will lead to deployment of more forces to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, Tan said: “That will depend on the two commanders (Barientos and Amba). If they think there is a need, they have the full authority to shift forces,” said Tan.

On whether the move will result in the rescue of Abu Sayyaf hostages, Tan said: “We’re sure that the command and control will be strengthened.”

The Abu Sayyaf is keeping several foreign and Filipino hostages in Sulu, including a Dutch wildlife photographer abducted in Tawi-Tawi in February 2012.

Two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina seized from Samal island in Davao del Norte last September were reportedly brought by their Abu Sayyaf captors to Sulu. The foreign hostages said they are being held in Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf but the military is still validating this.

The Abu Sayyaf set a deadline of April 8 for the payment of P1-billion ransom for each of the hostages.

Commenting on the deadline, Tan said they are conducting operations with or without the deadline.

Reports also said 10 Indonesian crewmembers of a tugboat intercepted off Tawi-Tawi on March 26 and four Malaysian crewmembers of another tugboat intercepted off Sulu last April 13 are also being held captive in the island-province.

Sabah govt suspends barter trade activities with immediate effect

From The Sun Daily (Apr 6): Sabah govt suspends barter trade activities with immediate effect

Coal barge 'Anand 12' which was believed to have been seized and its crew abducted by the Abu Sayyaf militant group on March 26, 2016 was found adrift near Lahad Datu on April 4 with the contents of the vessel still intact. — Bernama

Coal barge 'Anand 12' which was believed to have been seized and its crew abducted by the Abu Sayyaf militant group on March 26, 2016 was found adrift near Lahad Datu on April 4 with the contents of the vessel still intact. — Bernama
The Sabah government has suspended barter trade activities in all ports throughout the state with immediate effect to curb cross-border crimes, particularly kidnappings.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the suspension was among eight decisions taken by the Cabinet at its meeting today.

The move comes in the wake of the kidnapping of four Malaysians near Ligitan Island, off Semporna, Sabah.

The state cabinet also suspended with immediate effect all transshipment trade, including in petroleum and gas products in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), and deferred ferry services between Kudat, Sabah and Pahlawan, Philippines.

It also decided that all matters violating shipping rules, trade at sea be enforced fully as per the laws by all enforcement agencies in eastern Sabah.

Following the move, all vessels, including foreign vessels and boats that do not comply to the rules and laws and threaten national security will not be allowed to enter Sabah waters.

The Cabinet also decided that curfew enforcement in the east coast (of Sabah) will be modified and enforced fully including taking stern action without compromise against any individual, boat or ship not following the orders of the authorities in the Esszone.

"The State Security Committee (JKKN) is also reviewing security threats with regards to the use of pump boats in Sabah. All pump boat usage will be monitored by the enforcement authorities, boats used by non-Malaysian individuals or groups will be seized," Musa told reporters after chairing the Cabinet meeting.

According to Musa, a review will also be made in depth to implement preventive measures in tackling hijackings and kidnappings involving merchant vessels plying risky waters off the east coast of Sabah, including giving protection by the authorities but this would need cooperation from the owners (of the vessels).

In addition, Musa said aggressive action without compromise would be taken without delay to strengthen security in eastern Sabah by all agencies under existing laws.

"This were what we discussed in the meeting and all were agreed upon. For us, this is the approach that were are taking because all this while, there were people who were thinking that we were not serious about the matter," he said, adding that the measures were necessary because it was difficult to separate genuine cases from those who intended to do harm.

"This is to show how serious we are in overcoming such problems. So we believe that there must be new methods, there must be a new way to solve the problems. So far, this is the way to ensure untoward incidents such as kidnappings," he said.

He also denied allegations that the state government and federal government were not concerned about Sabah's security, instead he stressed that the government was seriously looking into security matters, threats not affected the people but the country as well.

"We have also asked the Philippine government to take the matter seriously. This issue troubles us so much so we feel insecure. So we discussed with JKKN and have taken steps like these to give a strong signal to the parties on the other side that we are dead serious about our security and will not tolerate the harmful actions of irresponsible quarters from the neighbour," he said.

In PETALING JAYA, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin welcomed the decision by the Sabah government to suspend barter trade activities.

He said the barter trade system was no longer suitable because security of the people was paramount.

"The move taken by the Sabah government is in the interest of the people because we want Malaysians to live with peace of mind," he said when launching the Young Indian Entrepreneurs Award 2016 here. — Bernama

No Deals With Abu Sayyaf

From (Apr 7): No Deals With Abu Sayyaf

No Deals With Abu Sayyaf

Jakarta - Piracy is a crime that must not be tolerated. And rescuing the crew of the Anand 12 held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants is now a priority of the government. But this must be done without negotiating with the kidnappers. Once we give in to their demands, they will carry out more terror acts. As soon as the authorities obtain the green light from the Philippine government, security officials should promptly carry out their rescue operation.

Early this week, Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines, hijacked Indonesian-flagged tugboat Brahma 12 and its barge, the Anand 12, that were carrying 7,000 tons of coal from the Puting river in South Kalimantan to Batangas in the southern Philippines. The pirates later released the Brahma 12, but detained the Anand 12 along with 10 sailors all Indonesians and the cargo.

This is not the first time Indonesian vessels have been hijacked. In June 2004, 10 pirates claiming to be part of the Aceh Independence Movement (GAM) intercepted the Pertamina tanker MV Pematang and its 36 crew members over the Malacca Strait. The pirates demanded a Rp2 billion ransom. The Indonesian military launched a rescue operation on the Karel Satsuit Tubun frigate, killing three pirates.

In 2011, the Sinar Kudus, a cargo ship belonging to Samudra shipping company and carrying 8,300 tons of ferronickel worth Rp1.4 trillion, was forced to anchor off the Somalian coast, infamous for its pirates. They had held the ship in international waters for days and were initially demanding US$1 million. The ransom rose to US$3 million before the hijackers lowered the sum again to the original figure.

The Indonesian military at the time had prepared a rescue operation but delayed it after the ship owner decided to pay the ransom a regrettable decision. After the money was paid and the hostages safe, the army, with permission from the Somali government, raided the ship. Four pirates were shot dead while the rest escaped.

The consent of the local government is necessary before foreign troops can enter a given country even for humanitarian missions, as international law stipulates. With such a permission, our elite special forces stormed the DC-9 Garuda plane that had been hijacked and forced to land at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Up to last weekend, the Philippine government withheld its permission and we must respect its position. After all, it is not only responsible for Indonesian hostages but also for other captives whom Abu Sayyaf has held for months.

But diplomatic strings must be pulled to the maximum to expedite the permission. A joint operation between the two countries' militaries is another option. Whatever the choice, the hostages' release should not be secured by negotiating with the pirates.

In dealing with terrorists, Indonesia must be clear in its principles that the hostages' life is of utmost importance and there is no room for compromise. This is not only to demonstrate our strength but to deter more terror acts from happening in our territory.

Abu Sayyaf Ransom Payment is Ship Company`s Business: Police Chief

From (Apr 7): Abu Sayyaf Ransom Payment is Ship Company`s Business: Police Chief

AbuSayyaf Ransom Payment is Ship Company`s Business: Police Chief

Chief of the National Police Gen. Badrodin Haiti. TEMPO/Frannoto

Jakarta - National Police Chief General Badrodin Haiti passes the buck to Brahma 12 barge owner over ransom payment of 10 Indonesians being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf group. Bardodin, however, has confirmed that hostage rescue will continue to be pursued by the government through diplomatic channels.

“It’s the [ship] company’s business, not the police; we are not involved in it,” he said at Police Headquarters Jakarta, Wednesday, April 6, 2016.

The rescue efforts through Indonesian military operation to the Philippines is unlikely, according to Badrodin. He hoped that the Philippine government is willing to cooperate fully in addressing the case by prioritizing the safety of the hostages.

“We hope the Philippine [government] can do the best they can. Still, we want to say that hostage safety is the priority,” he said.

Earlier, 10 Indonesians are being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines waters. The Indonesians are crew members of Brahma 12 barge that carried 209 tons of coal. They had asked for ransom of Rp15 billion.

RAND: U.S. Special Operations Forces in the Philippines, 2001–2014

From the Rand Corporation (Apr 2016): U.S. Special Operations Forces in the Philippines, 2001–2014

[For the full report go to the following URL:]

This report examines the 14-year experience of U.S. special operations forces in the Philippines from 2001 through 2014. The objective of this case history is to document and evaluate the activities and effects of special operations capabilities employed to address terrorist threats in Operation Enduring Freedom — Philippines through (1) training and equipping Philippine security forces, (2) providing operational advice and assistance, and (3) conducting civil–military and information operations. The report evaluates the development, execution, and adaptation of the U.S. effort to enable the Philippine government to counter transnational terrorist groups.
An average of 500 to 600 U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps special operations units were employed continuously under the command of a joint special operations task force. They provided training, advice, and assistance during combat operations to both Philippine special operations units and selected air, ground, and naval conventional units; conducted civil–military and information operations on Basilan, in the Sulu archipelago, and elsewhere in Mindanao; provided intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, medical evacuation, and emergency care; aided planning and intelligence fusion at joint operational commands and force development at institutional headquarters; and coordinated their programs closely with the U.S. embassy country team. The authors conclude that Operation Enduring Freedom — Philippines contributed to the successful degradation of transnational terrorist threats in the Philippines and the improvement of its security forces, particularly special operations units. It identifies contributing and limiting factors, which could be relevant to the planning and implementation of future such efforts.

Research Questions

  1. What effect did U.S. special operations forces' activities have on the transnational terrorist threat?
  2. What effect did those activities have on the Philippine security forces' capabilities at the tactical, operational, and institutional levels?

Key Findings

U.S. Special Operations Forces' Activities in the Philippines Between 2001 and 2014 Contributed to a Reduced Transnational Terrorist Threat and Support for Threat Groups

  • The number of enemy-initiated attacks has dropped, the number of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants has decreased, and polls show reduced support for the ASG and a substantial majority reporting satisfaction with Philippine security forces.

U.S. Special Operations Forces' Activities in the Philippines During That Period Also Increased Philippine Security Forces' Capabilities at the Tactical, Operational, and Institutional Levels

  • At the tactical level, U.S. special operations forces (SOF) provided training, advice, and assistance to conventional Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) units at all echelons throughout Mindanao, including Philippine Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force units. In the later years of Operation Enduring Freedom — Philippines, U.S. SOF also provided training, advice, and assistance to the PNP Special Action Forces. U.S. SOF interviewees judged that Philippine SOF are among the most proficient of those Asian SOF units with which they had worked.
  • At the operational level, U.S. SOF advised and assisted the AFP headquarters to improve its joint processes and integrate command and control, planning, and intelligence functions.
  • At the institutional level, U.S. SOF contributed somewhat to strategy, planning, and coordination at the AFP national headquarters, and they helped Western Mindanao Command develop its plans and intelligence analysis and fusion capabilities.

Activities During That Period Had Other Effects as Well

  • The activities enhanced the bilateral defense ties between the United States and the Philippines.


  • U.S. counterterrorism policy in recent years has sought to rely increasingly on indigenous forces. Some efforts have enjoyed greater success than others, including this Philippine example. The study found that key factors that contributed to success in this case were: 1) maintaining the sovereign government lead, which avoided U.S. dependency; 2) adjusting plans through regular assessments; 3) employing SOF and other capabilities in a synergistic way; and 4) creating and maintaining interagency coordination. These findings may be useful in developing policy options and plans for other long-term SOF and partner building missions.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One
  • Chapter Two
    U.S.-Philippine Relations in Historical Perspective
  • Chapter Three
    2001–2004: The Initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom — Philippines
  • Chapter Four
    2005–2007: The Move to Jolo and Operation Ultimatum
  • Chapter Five
    2008–2010: Expansion of Effort
  • Chapter Six
    2010–2012: Transitioning Up
  • Chapter Seven
    2012–2014: Zamboanga Siege and Transitioning Out
  • Chapter Eight
  • Appendix A
    Balikatan 02-1 Terms of Reference
  • Appendix B
    Plan Analysis Tool

HIMARS going to Palawan for maritime interdiction exercise

From Update.Ph (Apr 5): HIMARS going to Palawan for maritime interdiction exercise

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) of United States military will be brought to Palawan during the conduct of Balikatan 2016. This is after the firing of HIMARS rockets was demonstrated April 4 at Crow Valley, Tarlac that coincided with the official opening day of Balikatan.

According to Balikatan spokesperson Captain Celeste Frank Sayson American HIMARS will be brought to Palawan, however, there will be no live firing, instead, a “simulated firing” will be conducted. Two HIMARS are currently in the Philippines

“Simulated firing” will be part of the programmed maritime interdiction exercise off eastern Palawan.

In Crow Valley, the US Marines fired reduced-range practice rockets (RRPRs) Monday. These practice rockets has a range of 15 kilometers and ballasted with non-explosive material. HIMARS has a range of 300 kilometers and can engage ground, air, and sea targets.

There will be another live firing in Crow Valley this coming April 14 for the live-fire phase of the “Balikatan” exercises.

US seen to leave Himars battery in Palawan base

From the Business Mirror (Apr 6): US seen to leave Himars battery in Palawan base

THE High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars) that Filipino and American troops will use for interoperability training in the ongoing bilateral war games would likely be left by the United States in the country in order to boost the deterrent capability of the Armed Forces against China in the West Philippine Sea.

The deployment of the Himars, which will be used for the first time in the 31 years of the RP-US Exercise Balikatan, would form part of the repositioning of troops and assets of the US in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), other than aiding the military against China’s aggressive military activities in the disputed territory.

On Tuesday US Marines participating in the war games fired six rockets from two Himars platforms at the Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Tarlac, with the Filipino troops observing the live fire exercise.

On Monday Balikatan officials disclosed that US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will fly to the Philippines to observe the firing of the Himars in the latter part of the war games, the first time that a US defense secretary will be present in the yearly exercise between Filipino soldiers and their American counterparts.

Officials have issued statements that after the Balikatan, the Himars would be taken to Palawan without elaborating.

The transport of the US weapons system to Palawan, one of the areas that has been identified by the US and the Philippines to host US troops and equipment on a rotation basis under the Edca, has raised the possibility that it would be left there.

Normally, the US and even the Armed Forces would not disclose the deployment of weapons.

One official who requested anonymity said the basing of the Himars in Palawan, if it happens, should check the Chinese military lurking on the reefs that it has reclaimed and turned into bases in the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, one of the two C-130 “Hercules” planes that the US is turning over to the country under its Excess Defense Articles Program landed in Cebu on Tuesday night.

The transport plane landed at Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu, at around 11: 25 p.m., said the Air Force spokesman, Col. Araus Roberto Musico.
The C-130 was flown in by five Filipino Air Force officers.

Why the Philippines is Critical to the US Rebalance to Asia

From The Diplomat (Apr 7) Why the Philippines is Critical to the US Rebalance to Asia (By )

Manila has become an even more central part of U.S. security strategy over the past few years.

Later this month, U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter will travel to the Philippines as part of a broader Asia trip. His upcoming visit highlights how the Southeast Asian state – long belittled as one of Asia’s weakest militaries and Washington’s laggard alliance – has in fact grown to become a critical part of America’s ongoing rebalance to the region.

Although the first pillar of the Obama administration’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is often cited as being strengthening ties with traditional allies as well as new partners, these newer partnerships – such as the one with Vietnam – have been grabbing the headlines more so than Washington’s two Southeast Asian alliances with Thailand and the Philippines. To a certain extent, this is to be expected: historic firsts are much more likely with new partnerships than they are with old alliances, and the U.S.-Thai and U.S.-Philippine alliances have both been underperforming of late due to a variety of reasons including domestic politics (See: “Exclusive: Managing the Strained U.S.-Thailand Alliance”).

Nonetheless, it is clear that through a series of steps over the last few years, the Philippines has emerged as what Carter in January termed “a central part” of the Obama administration’s rebalance, particularly in the security realm. In no small part due to China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, Manila has cemented itself as a key location for America’s military presence; an exemplar of partnering both with Washington as well as its regional allies like Japan and Australia; and an upholder of international principles in the maritime security domain. While it is unclear whether the Philippines’ role in these three dimensions – presence, partnering and principles – will endure, its efforts under President Benigno Aquino II still deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated.

First, the Philippines has cemented itself as a key location for America’s military presence in the region. To be sure, despite the oft-cited American withdrawal from bases in 1992 following a razor-thin Senate vote, close observers of U.S.-Philippine defense ties know that the United States had still enjoyed significant access to Philippine facilities, including port calls to Subic Bay, a former naval base. But the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), inked in April 2014 and upheld by the Supreme Court in January, is undoubtedly a significant boost for Washington on that score.

As I have written previously, the pact officially gives U.S. troops and equipment wide access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis (See: “A Big Deal? US, Philippines Agree First ‘Bases’ Under New Defense Pact”). This is a rare opportunity in a region within which many nations, in spite of uncertainties about China’s rise, continue to be wary of the domestic and foreign policy implications of a greater U.S. military presence on their soil to varying degrees (indeed, getting EDCA passed was no easy feat for Manila either). And it is valuable for Washington, as a geographically distant power in the Asia-Pacific, because the agreement will eventually allow the U.S. to station more troops, ships and planes more frequently, thereby enhancing its rotational presence in the region generally. Though both sides will initially be cautious about how they implement the agreement due to political sensitivities, U.S. and Philippine officials say privately that it will not be long before this enhanced presence is visible.

Second, beyond just the U.S.-Philippine alliance, Manila is becoming an exemplary case of the growing networking between the United States and its allies and partners in the region more generally. A good example is the Philippines’ central role in the new U.S.-led Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative (MSI), an effort to enhance regional maritime domain awareness (MDA) of Southeast Asian states in the South China Sea so they can improve their ability to detect, understand, react to, and share information about air and maritime activity there. As I laid out in an extensive separate piece on MSI, while it is still in its early stages, the idea is to build a networked, common operating picture in the South China Sea beginning from the Philippines’ National Coast Watch Center and out onto the rest of the region (See: “America’s New Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia“).

Beyond Southeast Asia, contrary to what the overwhelming media attention to the Philippines’ relationships with the United States and China might suggest, Manila has in fact long cultivated relationships with other major regional powers as well, including Japan and Australia, both of whom are also U.S. treaty allies. Yet both the pace at which the Philippines’ has strengthened security relationships with these individual countries as well as the degree to which it has been networking these interactions have increased appreciably over the past few years.

Perhaps the clearest manifestation of this is the Balikatan exercises, the premier bilateral training exercise between the United States and the Philippines which began more than three decades ago. Balikatan has been expanded over the past few years to include Australia’s participation since 2014 as well as several observers, including Japan as well as eleven other countries this year (“US, Philippines Launch Wargames as China Issues Warning”). This is hardly the only example either. Last August, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces joined a U.S.-led maritime humanitarian exercise off the coast of the Philippines near Subic Bay for the first time, one of many highlights in the growing Japan-Philippine defense relationship, with the first naval drills held last year and plans in the works for potential transfers of defense equipment and technology (See: “What’s Next for Japan-Philippines Defense Ties?”).

The growing role of Japan and Australia in addition to the United States in Philippine security thinking is particularly important to note as it could also result in further networking opportunities down the line as well. Indeed, The Diplomat understands that there already have been conversations by these actors about how to further enhance coordination in various fields, with maritime security being a chief concern given China’s actions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. If Tokyo does end up eventually securing a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with Manila as Washington and Canberra already have, that would expand the room for collaboration even further (See: “Japan, Philippines Seeking New Pact on Military Bases”). For instance, if Japan were to conduct patrols in the South China Sea in concert with the United States in the future, refueling close to the area in the Philippines would enable the Japan Self Defense Forces to operate for a longer time and over a larger area.

Third and lastly, the Philippines is an active supporter of international principles which are central to the preservation of the rules-based order which U.S. officials so often talk about. Most clearly, in the security realm, while many U.S. allies and partners in the region rhetorically support principles like the freedom of navigation, adherence to international law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes when it comes to the South China Sea, the Philippines is the only Southeast Asian claimant state thus far which has filed a case against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), with a verdict expected in May or July (Vietnam, by contrast, has only filed a separate statement).

As I’ve argued before, the case could have significant implications not just for the ongoing saber-rattling between Beijing and Manila, but the validity of China’s South China Sea claims more generally, the reactions of important actors like the United States who have an interest in principles like freedom of navigation, and the approaches that Asian states take to manage other disputes between them moving forward (See: “Does the Philippines’ South China Sea Case Against China Really Matter?“). To be sure, the Philippine decision to pursue the legal course was in part motivated by its own military inferiority relative to China in the South China Sea, a point that has been demonstrated by Beijing’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 as well as its continued harassment of Philippine aircraft and vessels in what one official called a quasi-air defense identification zone (ADIZ) (See: “China Enforcing Quasi-ADIZ in South China Sea: Philippine Justice”). But that does not detract from either the boldness it took the Philippines to initiate the case – amid fierce opposition from Beijing – or the potential significance of the ruling for the region and the world.

The Philippines’ role in upholding international principles like the freedom of navigation may not be restricted entirely to the legal realm either. The Diplomat understands, for instance, that there have already been private discussions about joint U.S.-Philippine freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

To highlight that the Philippines is central to America’s Asia security strategy today is not to downplay the challenges for U.S.-Philippine relations tomorrow. Most obviously, with upcoming presidential elections in the Philippines next month as well as in the United States in November, it is unclear to what extent the next leaderships will invest in sustaining the momentum in bilateral ties. Despite the endurance of the U.S.-Philippine alliance, there are concerns about whether the kind of cooperation seen under Aquino and his former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario can continue to the same degree under a different team. The extent to which this is true will affect not only the calculations of both sides, but also those of China with some continuing to believe that the next Philippine president might be willing to pursue closer ties with Beijing in spite of its South China Sea behavior. The degree to which Manila can function as a capable U.S. ally will also depend on its ability to follow through on its military modernization plans, which will in turn be contingent on strong economic growth rates amid global uncertainty (See: “The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the China Threat“).

The sustainability question also applies to the United States as well. At the opening session of the U.S.-Philippine Bilateral Security Dialogue, which The Diplomat attended, Philippine interlocutors expressed worries about whether a new administration would make strengthening U.S.-Philippine ties a priority coming in, particularly since Manila will be chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2017 and it will be the 50th anniversary of the regional grouping’s founding. Much of this will depend on whether the underlying infrastructure that the two sides have built to regularize interactions and lock in cooperation – such as the 2 + 2 meeting between foreign and defense ministers inaugurated in 2012 – are preserved moving forward. And though U.S. officials have repeatedly said that the alliance is “ironclad,” there are continued calls for Washington to move towards more forward-leaning measures as well, including specifically clarifying its commitments under the U.S.-Philippine defense treaty as they might apply to the South China Sea to serve as a deterrent to Beijing.

How both sides navigate these challenges amid regional and global conditions will determine the degree to which the Philippines continues to remain a central part of U.S. regional security interests in the years that follow

Satellite images showing the 55m-high lighthouse (above) on Subi Reef (left), near where the US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed last October. The official Xinhua news agency said the lighthouse "can provide efficient navigation services su

From the Straits Times (Apr 6): Beijing opens lighthouse on man-made island in South China Sea

Satellite images showing the 55m-high lighthouse (above) on Subi Reef (left), near where the US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed last October. The official Xinhua news agency said the lighthouse "can provide efficient navigation services su

Satellite images showing the 55m-high lighthouse (above) on Subi Reef, near where the US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed last October. The official Xinhua news agency said the lighthouse "can provide efficient navigation services such as positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, which can improve navigation management and emergency response".PHOTOS: REUTERS

 Satellite images showing the 55m-high lighthouse (above) on Subi Reef (left), near where the US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed last October. The official Xinhua news agency said the lighthouse "can provide efficient navigation services su

Satellite images showing the 55m-high lighthouse on Subi Reef (above), near where the US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed last October. The official Xinhua news agency said the lighthouse "can provide efficient navigation services such as positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, which can improve navigation management and emergency response".PHOTOS: REUTERS

China has begun operating a lighthouse on one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, near where an American warship sailed last year to challenge Beijing's territorial claims.

China claims most of the energy- rich waters of the South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. But neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The Chinese Transport Ministry held a "completion ceremony", marking the start of operations of the 55m-high lighthouse on Subi Reef, where construction began last October, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Tuesday.

US loads HIMARS in a Super Hercules at Clark

From Update.Ph (Apr 7): US loads HIMARS in a Super Hercules at Clark

A United States M142 High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) was loaded in a KC-130J Super Hercules April 6 at Clark Air Base, Philippines during the conduct of Balikatan 2016.

“After loading the HIMARS, the aircraft and crew of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing flew the HIMARS for the first time in the Philippines,” the US Marines Corps said, at the same time releasing photos of the loading.

However, the location where the HIMARS was being sent was not mentioned. There are two HIMARS currently in the Philippines, as reported.

On April 4, the US Marines fired 6 practice rockets using HIMARS at Crow Valley in Tarlac. There will be another live firing in Crow Valley this coming April 14 for the live-fire phase of the “Balikatan” exercises.

In earlier report, Balikatan spokesperson Captain Celeste Frank Sayson said HIMARS will be brought to Palawan but there will be no live firing, instead, a “simulated firing” will be conducted. “Simulated firing” will be part of the programmed maritime interdiction exercise off eastern Palawan.

Objectives and future direction for Rebalance security policies

From the American Enterprise Institute (Mar 31): Objectives and future direction for Rebalance security policies (By Daniel Blumenthal)

Thank you to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commissioners for inviting me to testify today. It is a privilege to be back with you—this time from the other side of the dais.

I hope to leave you with three main takeaways. (1) US interests in the Asia-Pacific have been tied to a post–World War II grand strategy of maintaining a preponderance of power across Eurasia (in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific). US objectives in Asia cannot be viewed in isolation from that strategic conception. (2) US security policies must operate within a diplomatic-political framework. We must continually ask, as you are right now, “What are we trying to achieve with our military and alliances?” In my view, Washington must become more diplomatically active in resolving territorial disputes plaguing the region, particularly in Southeast Asia. (3) Over the long term, the US needs as permanent a basing presence as possible southwest of Okinawa.

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Let me flesh out these thoughts by responding to your specific questions:

What interests does the United States have in the Asia-Pacific, and how do these relate to the world order the United States seeks to promote?

Since the end of World War II, the United States has pursued a strategy of primacy across Eurasia.[1] Regarding Asia specifically, successive US presidents have found that this strategy has best served our interests, which in Asia include:
  • Defending the US homeland far forward;
  • Preserving a favorable balance of power in Eurasia, so that no power can dominate the continent;
  • Ensuring free military and commercial access to Asia’s maritime commons, while maintaining a high degree of political influence on continental Asia;
  • Preserving and continuing to refine the liberal international order consistent with the “US way of life,” as the framers of the US Cold War strategy put it; and
  • Building a network of friends and allies who support our interests.
US grand strategy has been largely successful. It has tamed security competitions between historic Asian rivals and created the conditions for dizzying economic growth—allowing us to even consider that we may face an “Asian century.”
Are any of these interests threatened currently, and, if so, how should the United States respond?

The short answer is yes. As the commission knows well, since the end of the Cold War, China has developed its economic and military capacity to challenge our interests in Asia. In recent years, Beijing has utilized its instruments of national power for coercive purposes, even though China has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the system the US shaped—one of open economies, free maritime commons, and sets of rules and customs meant to stem proliferation and generally tame rivalries.

It should be no surprise that China is translating wealth into power to further its ambitions for a national rejuvenation. The People’s Republic is acting like every rising power before it. The only surprise is that many people are surprised.

Beijing’s actions are inherently destabilizing. While China’s economic growth thus far has occurred within the framework of the liberal economic system, it is now developing alternative economic institutions meant to further its political purposes, which include the dilution of US interests and the recreation of a “Sinosphere”—the natural state of geopolitics in Chinese eyes.[2]

In the security realm, the purview of this panel, China poses a serious challenge to the military strategy that has undergirded America’s grand strategy of primacy. What are the elements of US defense strategy in Asia?
  • A forward basing posture for combat aircraft, large numbers of SSN and SSBN submarines, and carrier strike-groups to project power in Asia. US “boomer” submarines, armed with ICBMs, lurk underwater ready to act. These assets provide a continual, silent deterrent, while carrier strike groups present highly visible symbols of US power.
  • Control of the commons and the ability to summon overwhelming force anywhere and anytime. For the US to continue to be the prime player in Asia, it must retain the ability to command Asia’s commons. This requires that the US properly steward its alliances and partnerships in order to maintain a forward deployed posture, while also adequately funding our military to ensure that our air and naval assets are modernized and ready for quick deployment.
It will be no surprise to you that China’s military strategy thus far has been to “defeat the enemy’s strategy.” The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has built a precision strike complex made up of a ballistic and cruise missile force, undersea capabilities, integrated air defense, counter-space and cyber capabilities, and bombers and fighters that can deliver additional firepower against US and allied assets within Asia’s “First Island Chain.” For a time that in retrospect appears brief, this type of precision strike complex was the monopoly of the US military.

The PLA has created contested zones in its “near seas,” allowing it to deny the US access to parts of the commons in the Western Pacific. The PLA can now threaten US logistical supply lines and bases throughout Asia, while also holding US assets at risk in space and cyberspace.

This military strategy is meant to exact a serious cost on US military forces attempting to project power into the “First Island Chain” and interdict US forces surging into Asia during a crisis. For example, in the event of conflict, carrier strike groups, the iconic symbol of US power projection, could face swarms of Chinese hypersonic cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles (or what are called in the press “carrier-killers”), and packs of diesel electric submarines. The PLA air force’s increasingly modern fleet of aircraft provides China with additional range in striking US bases and carrier groups.

Under the cover of these contested zones, China can employ coercive power against its neighbors to further its maritime and geopolitical interests. This strategy is undermining the foundations of US primacy. Absent primacy, it will be very difficult for the US to protect the other interests stated above.

We may not know with exactitude the nature of Chinese long-term plans for the region, but we do know that a China with greater coercive power will have a more substantial say in the economic and political life of this crucial region.
What are the security objectives of the Rebalance, and how have these evolved over time? Do these objectives reflect US regional and global interests, and are they permitting effective planning and execution of the security component of the Rebalance?

In 2011 President Obama announced a strategic “Pivot” or “Rebalance” to Asia. The strategy has two main premises.
  • Given the assumed rise of an “Asian Century,” more diplomatic and military power must be deployed to the Asia-Pacific region.
  • US involvement in the Middle East was a “distraction” from higher-order US strategic goals in Asia.
The first premise may be correct—although the seemingly long-term economic stagnation of China may call into question the viability of an “Asian Century.”[3]
The second strategic premise has proved faulty. As we have learned, if the US is to remain the world’s international leader, the sole superpower, we cannot pivot from any of Eurasia’s critical regions. Russia still has designs on Europe. When we retrench from the Middle East, problems arguably grow worse.

These regions are interconnected. Large Asian nations are importers of oil from the Middle East, and US partners in Asia look to Washington to keep open the sea-lines of communication (SLOCs) from the Pacific through the Indian Ocean. New partners are crucial to maintaining a favorable balance of power in Asia, but India, for example, will not play the role the US wishes it to in East Asia if jihadi terror festers on its western flank. Some of America’s largest would-be friends in Asia, such as Indonesia, have majority Muslim populations and are concerned about the return of global jihadi threats. Australia, one of Washington’s closest allies in Asia, regards radicalization in Indonesia as a prime security concern.

Russia also remains a player in East Asia—maybe a growing one if its energy exports are banned from Europe for the long term. The US must be mindful that it does not make it convenient for China and Russia to band together. In short, the US must think geopolitically and not just regionally.

Even so, regional strategies that enhance our geopolitical goals are necessary. So let us assess the success of the Rebalance on its own terms. The Pentagon’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance document states the following as US strategic goals in Asia:[4]
  • Promoting a rules-based international order that ensures underlying stability and encourages the peaceful rise of new powers, economic dynamism, and constructive defense cooperation;
  • Expanding networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests; and
  • Ensuring that US forces maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely in order to promote stability and the free flow of commerce.
 According to the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, released by the Pentagon in 2015, US security goals include:[5]
  • Strengthen US military capacity in the Asia-Pacific to deter conflict and coercion;
  • Build maritime capacity for allies and partners;
  • Strengthen maritime rules of the road; and
  • Build regional security institutions to encourage the development of an open regional security architecture.
Strengthening US military capacity, offering allies and partners security assistance, and defending the maritime rules of the road are fine goals, but to plan and execute more effectively, the next administration will need to be clear about which security institutions should be strengthened or created and which states should be part of an “open regional security architecture.”

I believe that the US needs to operate at two levels. First, we need to find ways to better build coalitions of allies and friendly nations that operate together and further common interests. While an Asian NATO is not in the cards, a coalition of allies could work more closely together. For example, I believe that the US should be more active in its diplomacy in the South China Sea (SCS), assisting our allies and partners, who are claimants affected by China’s expansive 9-dash line claim, to resolve disputes among themselves.[6]

Within an allied and partner diplomatic framework, Washington could more effectively posture our military and build partner capacity to help our friends protect their territories and rights, shaping the South China Sea in ways consistent with our interests in maintaining free and open maritime commons.

Second, we need regional security organizations, of which China is a part, to tame rivalries and find diplomatic solutions where our interests diverge.
Assess the implementation of the security component of the Rebalance. Have sufficient resources been devoted to achieving stated US objectives for this component, and what policy and investment changes, if any, should be made going forward? Is the United States investing sufficient resources to meet the requirements of the emerging Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC)?

Let me answer both questions together. In response to China’s anti-access area denial (A2/AD) strategy, the US military must strive to maintain the ability to forward deploy and command the commons. This includes continuing to disperse, harden, and find new permanent basing in Asia; add forward deployed capacity; and modernize its air and naval arsenal. I will break down my assessment of the Rebalance security implementation into several parts: posture, partner cooperation, capacity, and capability.

Posture. The US Air Force currently relies heavily on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Kunsan and Osan Air Bases in South Korea, and Anderson Air Base in Guam; however these airfields are increasingly vulnerable to attack from China’s suite of advanced ballistic and cruise missiles. The Rebalance has included several positive steps with regard to US posture in the region.
  • In 2011–2012, the US announced the rotational deployment of four Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore and of 2,500 marines to Darwin, Australia.
  • In January 2016, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which will open up air and naval bases in the Philippines to US troops on a rotational basis. Just last week, it was reported that the US has received access to four new air bases in the Philippines.[7]
Even with these additions, rotational access will not make up for the fact that the US has no permanent presence southwest of Okinawa, even as the center of gravity of the Sino-American rivalry moves to the South China Sea. A longer-term goal for our diplomats should be for the US to build a permanent presence in Southeast Asia.
Partner Cooperation. As part of the pivot, the US has taken a number of smaller steps to enhance cooperation with allies and partners.
  • In Northeast Asia, the US has revised and updated its treaty with Japan to include enhanced joint operations, sold state of the art drones and Ospreys to Tokyo, and is currently in THAAD negotiations with Seoul.
  • In Southeast Asia, the administration partially lifted the long-standing US arms embargo with Vietnam.[8] It has also pushed the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative that will (hopefully, pending congressional funding) provide more than $425 million in maritime capacity building over the next five years to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The US still spends only 1 percent of its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) in Asia—a figure that is not commensurate with our interests in the region. The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program is another highly effective way to both build partner capacity and alliance cohesion. The US effectively used these programs to help South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan develop modern militaries.
Capacity. The government has not properly funded the rebalance.
  • According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Obama administration’s FY2010 defense budget request of $534 billion was $40 billion below the level necessary to fund its own defense plans.[9]
  • Then in 2011, the Budget Control Act (BCA) made the defense budget problem even worse. The BCA eliminated $400 billion in defense spending between 2012 and 2021 from the FY2012 budget request. If BCA is not reversed, it could strip more than $1 trillion from the Department of Defense over time.[10]
  • In 2014, the National Defense Panel recommended a return to the Gates FY2012 budget baseline (FY2017 $649 billion). By comparison, the administration’s FY2017 base budget request is $551 billion.[11]
  • The US Navy’s battle fleet is currently down to 272 ships. The National Defense Panel recommended a 323-345 ship fleet, but if sequestration remains in place, the Navy could fall to as low as 260 ships.[12]
  • In addition, the Navy has only 44 of the 77 ships its needs equipped with ballistic missile defense.[13] For 10 years (from 2025 to 2035), the Navy will fall below its 48-boat SSN requirement.[14] For 15 years (from 2027 to 2041), the Navy will fall below its 14-boat SSBN deterrence requirement.[15]
  • Budget shortcomings have also resulted in gaps in US presence in the Asia-Pacific. For example, in FY2013 the US had no carrier on patrol in the Western Pacific for five months. (USS George Washington was in port, but no other carrier was present in the PACOM area of responsibility.)[16]
  • In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, PACOM Commander Admiral Harry Harris stated that he lacks sufficient submarine capacity to carry out the required mission set in his area of responsibility (AOR).[17]
Capabilities. There have been good suggestions on how to enhance our capabilities in the face of the Chinese precision strike regime from think tanks such as CSIS, CSBA, and AEI. All agree that the US needs additional survivable stealthy attack aircraft, airlift capabilities, THAAD and other ballistic missile defense, an accelerated long range bomber program, UAVs, innovative subsurface capabilities (UUVs), and especially more submarines.[18]

What opportunities does the United States have to further security cooperation with regional allies and partners, as part of the security component of the Rebalance? Are current efforts under the Rebalance strategy sufficient? What obstacles exist, and what conditions would be required to implement other forms of security cooperation? What countries outside the Asia-Pacific have interests in the region that align with those of the United States, and are current conditions conducive to stronger policy coordination?


Beijing’s aggressiveness in the South and East China Seas has created more potential friends and allies for us than our diplomacy alone could have accomplished.
In addition to the new access arrangements and closer military ties Washington has negotiated with the Philippines and Australia, the US has enhanced its maritime training regiments with Indonesia and Vietnam. The US should focus on initiatives that knit together our allies and partners. I have written on this topic with colleagues, as has Dr. Rapp-Hooper—coalition maritime domain awareness is a good place to start.[19]
Japan will continue to be the linchpin of our regional strategy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has eased the way by increasing the defense budget, loosening interpretations of the constitution, and passing laws that allow for increased security missions. Last year, Japan signed strategic partnership agreements with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Tokyo has also agreed to give six maritime patrol vessels to Vietnam, sell three to Indonesia, and lend the Philippines money to purchase 10 maritime patrol vessels. Japan is currently bidding to supply Soryu-class submarines to Australia. The door is opening to joint patrols with the US, Vietnam, and Australia in the South China Sea. Japan is becoming a real security provider in the region.
Taiwan is really an opportunity more than a challenge. The democratic island had yet another peaceful election and is undertaking a peaceful transition of power. It is looking to build strong relations with the US and its allies (Japan and the Philippines) and is forging a responsible strategy on its own South China Sea claims. The challenge is how to integrate Taiwan into a common South China Sea strategy against vehement Chinese opposition and our own aversion to risk and change when it comes to the island.


US diplomats need strategic guidance and political attention to shape a diplomatic and security order in Asia among countries who gained their independence not long ago and are wary of ceding sovereignty and strategic autonomy. Given Asia’s history, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will not function as a supranational organization like the European Union (EU) for the foreseeable future, and it will be very difficult for it to negotiate common positions.

China expends tremendous efforts to divide ASEAN or any other regional grouping not dominated by Beijing. I believe that a US-led diplomatic initiative among the allied/partner claimant countries, as well as those with interests in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, is necessary on a bilateral or trilateral level outside, or complementary to, the ongoing work of ASEAN.

The US should work to achieve as much agreement as possible among the non-Chinese claimants about how to settle South China Sea disputes over rights and territories. The US Secretary of State should be shuttling between Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila, while also consulting with Taipei to produce a negotiated settlement. This effort will provide us all with more diplomatic leverage over China. It would also help the US clarify the objectives behind the use of its military power, which should be utilized for continued Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), as well as to protect agreed upon territory and rights of US allies. I flesh this “shuttle diplomacy” concept out in the Wall Street Journal piece cited below.[20]

The Commission is mandated to make policy recommendations to Congress based on its hearings and other research. What are your recommendations for congressional action related to the topic of your testimony? What role can Congress play in helping to further this component of the Rebalance strategy, and are there specific procurement questions or areas on which Congress should focus more closely going forward?
  • Engage in a South China Sea peace initiative that takes the lead in settling disputes among our claimant friends and allies and negotiates common positions on keeping the SCS an open maritime space.
  • Increase topline spending, and reverse defense cuts and sequestration. Imagine the change in the conversation we would be having if commanders had the ships they needed to simply execute the various missions they are tasked to do. If these cuts are not reversed, the US will have to change its strategy, possibly significantly, in Asia.
  • Assess whether the rebalance is leaving the US too exposed or with too much risk in other critical regions. Press high-level officials to state publicly how they are meeting global challenges while rebalancing.
  • Increase FMF in the Asia-Pacific region and expand the nascent Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative beyond $425 million — security assistance represents one of the best ways to build partner cohesion and alliance capacity. This will require political compromise elsewhere, as the US may have to freeze or reduce FMF levels in other regions. Washington needs a large arms sale in the Philippines, for example, using both FMF and FMS to jumpstart our capacity building.
  • Build coalition ISR capabilities.
  • Push the executive branch on long-term plans for permanent basing in Southeast Asia.
  • More immediately, work with Congress to assess options to deter China from destabilizing responses to the Philippines court case, such as land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal.
Has a proper balance been assigned to each of the major components of the Rebalance—security, economic, and diplomatic—in light of US regional interests, and does the strategy have the right geographic focus? What areas, if applicable, should be given greater weight? Assess the role of the security component within the wider strategy.

I touched on the need for diplomatic activism in the South China Sea. I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while imperfect, would put the US in the economic “driver’s seat” in Asia, and I believe the US needs to expand the trade deal to include South Korea, Taiwan, and whichever Southeast Asian countries are organized and prepared to join.

[1] This includes the Carter Doctrine addendum, which added the Persian Gulf as an area of prime US security interests.
[2] Institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
[3] Perhaps a topic for a separate hearing.
[4] US Department of Defense, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, January 2012,
[5] US Department of Defense, Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy,
[6] Daniel Blumenthal and Michael Mazza, “A New Diplomacy to Stem Chinese Expansion,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2015,
[7] These four bases are Basa Air Base in Luzon, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base. Armando J. Heredia, “Analysis: New U.S.-Philippine Basing Deal Heavy on Air Power, Light on Naval Support,” USNI News, March 22, 2016,
[8] Michael R. Gordan, “U.S. Eases Embargo on Arms to Vietnam,” New York Times, October 2, 2014,
[9] Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, To Rebuild America’s Military, American Enterprise Institute, October 2015, 64,
[10] Ibid., 65.
[11] Mackenzie Eaglen and Rick Berger, “2017 Defense Budget: Offset Promising, but Today’s Procurement Disproportionately Pays the Bills,” American Enterprise Institute, February 2016,
[12]  Mackenzie Eaglen and David Adesnik, State of the US Military: A Defense Primer, American Enterprise Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative, October 2015, 5,
[13] Ibid, 12.
[14] Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Report to Congress on Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for FY2015, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, June 2014,
[15] Ibid.
[16] Mackenzie Eaglen and David Adesnik, State of the US Military: A Defense Primer, American Enterprise Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative, October 2015, 18,
[17] To address this, the Pentagon might consider adding two Los Angeles class attack submarines to Guam or homeporting Virginia class SSNs in Indian Ocean, potentially in Diego Garcia.
[18]See for example Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, To Rebuild America’s Military, American Enterprise Institute, October 2015,; Andrew F. Krepinevich, “Maritime Competition in a Mature Precision-Strike Regime,” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, April 13, 2015,; Michael Green, Kathleen Hicks, Mark Cancian, Zack Cooper, John Schaus, et al, “Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025: Capabilities, Presence, and Partnerships,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 2016,
[19] Dan Blumenthal, “Networked Asia,” The American Interest, May 1, 2011,; Dan Blumenthal, Randall Schriver, Mark Stokes, LC Russell Hsiao, and Michael Mazza, “Asian Alliances in the 21st Century,” The Project 2049 Institute, August, 30, 2011,; Van Jackson, Mira Rapp-Hooper, Paul Scharre, Harry Krejsa, and CDR Jeff Chism, “Networked Transparency: Constructing a Common Operational Picture of the South China Sea,” Center for a New American Security, March 21, 2016.
[20] Daniel Blumenthal and Michael Mazza, “A New Diplomacy to Stem Chinese Expansion,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2015,