Federated Defense in Asia

By Kathleen Hicks & Michael J. Green

Forty-two ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations steam in close formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Source: U.S. Pacific Fleet’s flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

The following post draws on the work of the CSIS Federated Defense in Asia project, which released its findings in December 2014.

As regional security challenges grow in Asia, it is increasingly important that the United States work more closely with its allies and partners to build the capabilities and capacity necessary to address shared security concerns. Three trends drive this need for a new “federated defense” concept for capacity building and cooperation in Asia:

  1. The cost of developing weapons systems is growing rapidly. International collaboration will increasingly be the norm on sophisticated military hardware, such as the F-35, missile defense, and Australia’s new submarine program.
  2. Regional states are vulnerable to shared challenges such as natural disasters, terrorism, and coercion by larger states, which create risks for all states in the region and require international support in areas like maritime domain awareness.
  3. Multilateral cooperation to address shared threats will require interoperability and distributed capabilities and capacity.

In December 2014, CSIS issued a report on how federated defense could be applied in Asia. Through workshops with government, industry, military and outside experts from across the region, CSIS found critical capability and capacity gaps in six important areas that are ripe for federated approaches:

  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief: Recent natural disasters have demonstrated the need for improved regional collaboration on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). Regional states could establish additional pre- positioned stockpiles of critical supplies and broaden multinational exercises to include both whole-of-government and nongovernmental cooperation in responding to humanitarian crises.
  • Information and Intelligence Sharing: The MH-370 disaster heightened awareness of the need for a regional capability to monitor shared air and maritime areas. The United States and its European partners could share insights from efforts to build shared air traffic control and maritime domain awareness architectures in Europe and North America. ASEAN Defense Ministers expressed interest in these mechanisms in early 2014.
  • Maritime Security: As threats from piracy, illicit trade, transnational crime, and territorial disputes grow, many regional states are recognizing the need for additional maritime sensors and platforms. The cost of acquiring these capabilities is high, but pooled procurement programs for coastal patrol craft and advanced sensors could increase the quantity and quality of maritime assets while creating incentives for interoperability.
  • Undersea Warfare: The rapid improvement in Chinese and North Korean anti-access capabilities (particularly submarines) puts a premium on undersea operations and anti-submarine warfare. The United States and its allies have long-standing expertise in these areas. U.S. allies and partners could take advantage of this proficiency by working together to field undersea platforms, acquire anti-submarine warfare systems, and improve training and exercising for undersea warfare.
  • Missile Defense: As cruise and ballistic missiles proliferate throughout Asia, the need for missile defenses is growing. The cost of kinetic interceptors is prohibitive for smaller states and presents a disadvantageous cost- exchange asymmetry for all states. To offset these costs, regional states could share some of the development costs of directed energy and railgun research, which could protect against emerging missile technologies.
  • Cybersecurity: Although cyber threats have multiplied in recent years, many regional states continue to have limited national capability for cyber operations. As part of the U.S. effort to develop capabilities, operational concepts, and plans to assure access throughout Asia, the United States should coordinate combined cybersecurity exercises to highlight the importance of spending on and cooperation in the cyber domain.

In pursuing these and other federated defense initiatives, officials in the United States and in the Indo-Pacific must work together closely with civilian and military leaders, legislative supporters, and defense industry. Such cooperation could help to ensure that regional states not only identify common security objectives, but also work together to meet shared security requirements. This type of federated approach is vital to developing and integrating the region’s security capabilities, thereby reinforcing security and prosperity not only within Asia but beyond.

Dr. Kathleen Hicks is senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and director of the International Security Program at CSIS. Follow her on twitter @Kath_Hicks. Dr. Michael Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at CSIS.

Michael J. Green

Michael J. Green

Dr. Michael Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at CSIS. He is also an associate professor of international relations and director for Asian studies at Georgetown University.


2 comments for “Federated Defense in Asia

  1. Liars N. Fools
    April 22, 2015 at 16:47

    What Hicks and Green are saying is that they wish more countries other than Abe Shinzo’s Japan were signed on to confront China. The Koreans are on board to deter the North but not on board confronting China militarily, and the ASEAN countries are too divided and/or weak.

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