During his visit in November, President Obama dubbed Darwin the “perfect place” for a US base of operations.
His visit sent a strong signal of a huge turning point in US military strategy, away from Europe and towards a new threat: Asia.
President Obama dubbed Darwin the “perfect place” for a US base of operations.
Australia’s Ambassador to the US Kim Beazley says the policy shift means a lot for Australia’s role in the region.
“It’s a big deal for us, it’s a disciplined redirection of focus toward maritime strategy, a disciplined redirection of focus to the Asia Pacific region.
The policy shift marks the US’s first long-term expansion in the Pacific since the Vietnam War.
Dr Rod Lyon from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says Australia will have more responsibilities, and the military will have to do more heavy lifting.
“With the shrinkage of the US defence budget the US will be looking to get more out of its partners than it has in the past.”
2,500 US marines will be stationed in the Northern Territory within five years.
It’s an insurance policy against North Korea and the growing military might of China.
But some within the defence fraternity doubt we are prepared for the new challenge.
“Traditionally here in Australia we have underspent on our defence because the Americans have effectively subsidised our defence,” Neil James from the Australian Defence Association said.
Neil James says that as the US cuts back, Australia will need to be more robust in looking at adaptability in the ADF force structure.
And there are questions over Australia’s commitment to the F35 Joint Strike Fighter — America’s most expensive weapons program.
“Now we are in the F35 program, we’re in it for particular prices and of course those prices and delivery times will determine numbers,” Kim Beazley said.
He concedes the ADF may have reverted to using more super hornets to prevent a growing air defence capability gap.
Defence officials are also assessing future options for a larger American military presence at more facilities across Australia.