ASPI suggests: ANZAC Day edition

Bugler Corporal James Duquemin from the Band of the Royal Military College Duntroon plays the Last Post during the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Multi National Base – Tarin Kot.It’s ANZAC Day today, when our nation commemorates those who have given their lives or suffered in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. The day itself—25 April—marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand Forces during the First World War. ANZAC Day begins with a Dawn Service at war memorials around the country, which serves as a reminder of the dawn landing on Gallipoli in 1915.

If you’re interested in Australia’s more recent commitments to conflict zones overseas, the Australian War Memorial’s collection includes a recently-unveiled Afghanistan exhibition that blends traditional items like military equipment with other media like sketches, artwork and video. There’s more information on the AWM site as well as 28 video interviews with mostly ADF personnel, sharing their experiences with Afghanistan.

For a more detailed analysis of how Gallipoli became one of the bloodiest catastrophes, check out Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch’s book Military Misfortunes: the anatomy of failure in war which has a chapter on WWI.

Shifting now to broader strategic trends, this RSIS Commentary by Sofiah Jamil (PDF) explores the future of nuclear energy in Southeast Asia. If nuclear energy has a future in the region, governments need to encourage a culture of nuclear safety backed up by improved governance structures, argues Jamil.

Sticking with Southeast Asia, here’s part II of Scott Cheney-Peters work on private maritime security companies (PMSCs) over at CIMSEC. This time Scott looks at regional factors that have or could lessen the maritime security threats—including government action, capacity building, and legal regimes—and the outlook for PMSCs in the region.

Also on maritime issues, Strategist contributor Scott Bentley argues that Indonesia’s South China Sea policy is on a razor’s edge. In his view, there’s a tension between publicly acknowledging there’s an overlap between China’s nine-dash line map and Indonesia’s claimed EEZ off Natuna Islands and officially recognising that a dispute exists.


With US President Obama currently touring the Asia-Pacific, CSIS have produced this press briefing comprising their Asia experts (Victor Cha, Matthew P. Goodman, Michael Green and Murray Hiebert) who discuss what this means for rebalance credibility and American strategy. Prefer to read? Check out the transcript here (PDF).

Over at’s Foreign Entanglements segment, Kelsey Atherton and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross discuss what drones can and can’t do in places like Yemen and the state of al-Qaeda’s strength.


Canberra: John Blaxland will present on the role of the ADF in Australia diplomacy, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Hosted by the Australian Institute for International Affairs, the talk is at their Deakin offices, Tuesday 29 April at 6pm, details here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Britain not a player in Asia?

HMS Daring's Lynx helicopter arrives on the typhoon stricken Philippine island of Binuluanguan.  Sailors from HMS Daring have continued their efforts to deliver aid to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Nowadays it’s easy to wonder why there’s a Great in Great Britain. But I’m not sure Harry White’s Canberra Times opinion piece, ‘Britain not a player in Asia’, is entirely on the money.

It’s true that Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his then Secretary of State for Defence Dennis Healey were driven in part by financial considerations when they decided to retreat from East of Suez (see Saki Dockrill on this). But in the same Cabinet Minutes that endorsed that decision (PDF), on 6 July 1967, the Foreign Secretary also reported that ‘…his statement to the Ministerial Council of the Western European Union (WEU)… about the United Kingdom’s applications for membership of the European Communities had been very well received’. So the shift was driven not only by financial circumstance, but was a deliberate policy decision to begin the process of alignment with Europe. Yes, Britain’s economy was at that point larger than China’s, and the opposite is now true. But does it follow that ‘Britain lacks the strategic weight to be America’s best friend in Asia’, or indeed that Britain even wants to be?

So the first and obvious question is ‘why is Britain back in Asia?’ is it ‘driven by the shift in American interests and by Britain’s role in supporting Washington’, or is there more to it than that? Geography aside, a reasonable starting point might be to ask just how ‘Asian’ Britain is when compared with an Asian country like, say, Australia. The 2011 UK Census found 4,373,339 Britons or 7% of the population identified themselves as Asian (including India 2.3%, Pakistan 1.9%, Bangladesh 0.7% China 0.7%). The equivalent Australian Census showed 4.3% of Australians claiming Chinese and 2% claiming Indian ethnicity. The size of the British Indian population alone, 1.45 million people, is greater than the combined Asian ethnic population of Australia. And the linkages between those ethnic populations and Asia aren’t just historical and cultural. The estimated value of financial remittances (PDF) both to and from Britain is substantial. Britain represents 7% of the flow of remittances to Bangladesh (GBP626m) and 14% to Pakistan (GBP1.22bn) and the value of remittances has been growing steadily at an average rate of 3% per annum since 1989.

Foreign Secretary William Hague noted in a speech in July 2010 that ‘economic power and…opportunity are shifting to the countries of the East and South; to the emerging powers…other parts of Asia and to increasingly significant economies such as Turkey and Indonesia. It is estimated that by 2050 emerging economies will be up to 50% larger than those of the current G7, including of course the United Kingdom’. Despite post-imperial decline, Britain is still the world’s sixth largest economy ranked by GDP. Yes, China’s economy is now about four times larger, but according to the WTO (PDF) Britain is the world’s fifth largest importer and 11th largest exporter of goods and the second largest exporter and fifth largest importer of commercial services. And where’s all this trade going? Putting it simply, Britain’s shift to Asia is being driven by the same factors that drove it in the late 16th and 17th centuries to compete with first Portugal and then the Netherlands and France for control of trade to Asia. To quote Bill Clinton’s 1992 election maxim, it’s ‘the economy, stupid’.

So what about Britain’s relationship with the USA? Is it fair to assert that ‘the more America focuses on Asia, the less Britain will be able to support Washington’s strategic interests’. What’s to say that Britain has any ambition to be America’s best friend in Asia; surely that’s a role that Australia has reserved for itself? The more Washington focuses on Asia, the more important it’ll be for Britain and other European nations to pick up the weight in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

But that doesn’t mean Britain has no strategic interest in Asian security; it does. William Hague acknowledged that ‘the resources Britain has available for the projection of its influence overseas are constrained…’, but that didn’t prevent London from deploying first HMS DARING (Lynx helicopter from which is pictured above) and then HMS ILLUSTRIOUS to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Likewise, the deployment of HMS ECHO and HMS TIRELESS to the Southern Indian Ocean to support the search for MH 370 demonstrates an understanding of the strategic value of the deployment of credible military capability. How could it be that HMS ILLUSTRIOUS sailing from a deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean and Gulf could be on station in the Philippines two days before HMAS TOBRUK? What does that say about Britain’s ability ‘to deploy sufficient military force in Asia to make more than marginal impact’? Surely the important point is that a strategic adversary must consider the possibility not only that Britain might deploy a Queen Elizabeth Class carrier to a conflict half a world away, but to do so in the knowledge that it can, and when it’s in its interests, will.

Then there are the residual commitments of Empire. Britain is a signatory to the Five Powers Defence Arrangement and a member of the UN Command Military Armistice Commission in Korea. The British Indian Ocean Territories in Diego Garcia play a genuinely strategic role in the deployment of US maritime and air power projection in Asia. So Harry, you’re right that Britain isn’t going to come riding over the horizon with a military contribution that’ll shift the balance in a high-intensity war in Asia. But neither is Australia. Does that mean ‘Britain’s not a player in Asia’? I’m not so sure. One thing is certain—Australia mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that Britain is strategically irrelevant in Asia. And perhaps in the coming decades Australia might learn something about the strategic value to wider security of credible, capable and sustainable ‘symbolic contributions’.

Will Taylor is the former Defence Attaché to Australia, British High Commission and is now with QinetiQ Australia. Image courtesy of UK Minister of Defence.

The Joint Strike Fighter—an air combat capability enhancement

A 'mock-up' of the F-35A Lightning II aircraft (commonly known as the Joint Strike Fighter) on display at Defence Establishment Fairbairn.

Debate surrounding Australia’s air combat capability has often been emotive and controversial, most recently in relation to Australia’s acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The decision announced on 23 April 2014 to purchase another 58 JSF, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, has reignited debate on the suitability and affordability of fighter aircraft that are the ‘very best of breed’.

Unlike bombers and attack aircraft that focus on ground targets, fighter aircraft are primarily designed for air-to-air combat. A fighter’s main purpose is to establish air superiority over a battlefield—a sensible and necessary precursor to winning the ground fight. Modern fighters are fast, stealthy, sophisticated, and expensive. The JSF fits all those descriptors. But it’s still the best option available to Australia.

Australia’s unique and enduring geo-political circumstances demand a balanced defence capability that includes the best fighter aircraft we can incorporate into our arsenal. We remain the world’s only island continent, positioned on the cusp of the most globally dynamic region.

Air supremacy is shaped by multiple, complementary factors, including pilot training and skill, sound and effective doctrine, and the overall quality of the fighter aircraft itself. The balance of all those things is critical. Great pilots are made exponentially better by great aircraft and doctrine. The reverse is also true.   

Recent negative commentary about the JSF doesn’t reflect the improved status of the program and its importance in helping deliver an effective air combat capability to Australia’s defence strategy.

The majority of informed and credible senior US officials—those with access to detailed information on and direct responsibility for the F-35—describe a program now on track to deliver the most capable multi-role fighter in the world.

General Mike Hostage, Commander US Air Force’s Air Combat Command, said in February this year, ‘I am going to fight to the death to protect the F-35, because I truly believe that the only way we will make it through the next decade is with a sufficient fleet of F-35’s. If you gave me all the money I needed to refurbish the F-15 and F-16 fleets, they would still become tactically obsolete by the middle of the next decade…..I am fighting to the end, to the death, to keep the F-35 program on track.’

Mr Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics said in September 2013, ‘The F/A-18 is a great airplane, but it’s a fourth generation fighter. The F-15 is a great airplane, the F-16 is a good airplane, but they’re fourth generation fighters, and you get a quantum improvement in capability out of the F-35’.

Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, Program Executive Officer for the JSF program, said earlier this month while he was in Australia that ‘This is a different program to the one it was a few years ago. I can’t change where it’s been but I can change where it is going’. And, General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff for the US Air Force, stated in February this year ‘We are on track for IOC. That is the USAF achieving the initial operating capability of the aircraft in 2016, four years in advance of Australia’s requirement’.

It’s important that uninformed or unbalanced criticism shouldn’t derail a critical key element in future Australian defence planning and capability.  

More positively, Australians should note that the JSF Project is now on track to produce a devastatingly effective first-rate military capability, and one about which any future Australian adversary will—and should—always ponder with great caution.

And, finally, to the issue of cost; considered last, because while the JSF will be expensive, it won’t be prohibitively so. In any case, cost shouldn’t be the sole determinant where matters of national defence are concerned. 

The reality is that a first-rate military capability is always expensive—but not nearly as expensive as military defeat.   

It’s often practically useful in defence or military issues, to view matters through the eyes of a potential adversary. Where Australia is concerned, particularly from the perspective of its continental defence, an informed conventional aggressor would likely think twice about—and fear—two Australian military capabilities over all others: state-of-the-art submarines and airpower.

And while the actual ‘live’ use of either capability has now all but completely receded from the living memory of contemporary Australians, an enemy planner still sees them as ‘game-changing’ deterrents. Both capabilities give true strategic reach and strike (a much misused term in public commentary), as well as proffering potent and comforting insurance to, and for, all Australians.             

Andrew Nikolic is the Federal Member for Bass and a former Australian Army officer. He is a former First Assistant Secretary of International Policy Division, and a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Editor’s note: The Strategist welcomes contributions on the government’s F-35 procurement decision.

Syria: a fractured opposition and Australian consequences

A Syrian flag flutters outside a militar

Over the past two years, a significant number of Australians have become involved with armed opposition groups in Syria. Some (see here and here) have joined two jihadist organisations proscribed under Australia’s counter terrorism legislation, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which make up a small but prominent element of the Syrian rebellion.

This involvement has occurred despite Australian government counter-measures that include criminal charges, passport confiscations, bank account restrictions and coercive questioning, as well as public messaging (PDF) and community engagement initiatives.

The situation within Syria is changing rapidly, with open conflict breaking out between the competing opposition groups. What impact will the fratricide among those groups have on the involvement of Australians in the Syrian conflict?

The tensions behind the current intra-jihadist turmoil first became public in April 2013. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which had formed from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq, had released an audio message asserting authority over Jabhat al-Nusra, which was al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. ISI declared that it had created Jabhat al-Nusra, and that they were unifying under the new name of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Jabhat al-Nusra refused to concede this, and released an audio message disputing that it was created by the ISI, rejecting the new name and re-affirming allegiance to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. That led to a situation where ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra were both claiming leadership within Syria.

At first those tensions were held in check, as the groups shared the common enemies of the Assad regime and rival opposition groups. But when Zawahiri made clear (PDF) that he considered Jabhat al-Nusra to be al-Qaeda’s only legitimate representative in Syria, and that ISIS should restrict its activities to Iraq, ISIS began increasingly to reject al-Qaeda’s authority.

ISIS and its supporters argued that ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had never pledged allegiance to Zawahiri; that, as ISIS constituted an Islamic State, it had greater authority than al-Qaeda; and that by ordering ISIS to restrict its activities to Iraq, al-Qaeda was acquiescing to Western-created (Sykes-Picot) borders.

In February 2014, as the dispute continued, Zawahiri publicly disowned ISIS. At this time ISIS was already fighting against other Syrian rebel forces (the Free Syrian Army and the Saudi-backed Islamic Front), and soon was in open violent conflict with Jabhat al-Nusra as well.

ISIS has also been attempting to convince al-Qaeda affiliates and other jihadist groups across the world to switch sides, with some success (see here, here and here). What began as a dispute over authority within Syria has become a struggle for leadership of the entire global jihadist movement.

This division has affected Australia’s small jihadist scene, prompting key ideologues to take sides.

One example is former Sydney preacher Abu Sulayman, now described by Jabhat al-Nusra as a member of their General Islamic Council. He has appeared in several Jabhat al-Nusra videos, and become their most prominent English speaking member to address the dispute.

In a video on 17 March he stated he’d been appointed to mediate between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Along with several other jihadist ideologues, he then publicly called on Ayman al Zawahiri to provide more compelling responses to ISIS’ criticisms. Days later he appeared in a 45-minute Jabhat al-Nusra video, making a detailed condemnation of ISIS and defence of al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Abu Sulayman argued that al-Baghdadi had indeed pledged allegiance to Zawahiri and that al-Baghdadi had no authority to claim that ISIS constituted an actual state. He also argued that restricting ISIS’ authority to Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra’s to Syria was done for strategic reasons and didn’t mean that al-Qaeda was accepting colonial borders. Being in English, the video was likely directed at Western jihadists, with whom Jabhat al-Nusra has been struggling for support against ISIS’ competition.

But Abu Sulayman’s high-level role doesn’t mean that Jabhat al-Nusra dominates Australian jihadism. A former Melbourne preacher, Musa Cerantonio, has been vocal on social media defending ISIS’ version of the dispute. A recent ICSR report notes that ‘although he insists he is not a tribal loyalist who is committed to the group in all circumstances’ he tends to support ISIS over Jabhat al-Nusra, and has an extensive following among jihadists worldwide.

What impact the infighting will have on Australian jihadism is unclear. For the preachers, whoever sides with the winning faction will likely prove more influential afterwards. For the footsoldiers, the more recent Australian deaths in Syria have been associated with ISIS, which could indicate that ISIS has been winning out over Jabhat al-Nusra in attracting Australian recruits, but the information currently available is limited. It might be that aspiring footsoldiers are more concerned about the battle against Assad than which group they join.

There are also signs that infighting is disillusioning some foreign fighters. If so, the fratricidal conflict could end up having a greater impact on reducing the appeal of the Syrian jihad than the counter-measures currently being implemented.

Andrew Zammit is a researcher at Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre and blogs at The Murphy Raid. Image courtesy of Flickr user Freedom House.

China’s emerging undersea capability and the implications for Australia’s future submarine

KINGS BAY, Ga. (Aud. 1, 2012) The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN 738) transits the Saint Marys River. Maryland returned to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay following routine operations.At ASPI’s recent Submarine Conference the strategic rationale for Australia’s Future Submarine (FSM) was only lightly discussed. Presenters stated that the FSM worked best as an ‘offensive platform’ and ‘up threat’. But that issue deserves a more detailed debate: it’s central to answering the question about what we want the submarines to do. A hidden assumption of the 2009 Defence White Paper, which provided the vision for 12 new and large diesel-electric submarines, was that the boats would be able to operate for extended periods as far away as Northeast Asia, including off the Chinese mainland. Some analysts, including here on The Strategist, support such a view.

But the future undersea environment off the Chinese coast will be markedly different from what it is today. A key reason for that is China’s emerging submarine and anti-submarine (ASW) capability. To be sure, the current undersea balance between the US and China is still very much in favour of our major ally. Beijing is catching up though, and by the time Australia’s new generation of submarines goes to sea that balance might have shifted. As a recent report by the US Congressional Research Service points out, while China’s current submarine force is now quantitatively smaller than it was in 1990, it has ‘greater aggregate capability than it did in 1990, because larger numbers of older, obsolescent boats have been replaced by smaller numbers of more modern and more capable boats’.

A staff report for the US–China Economic and Security Review Commission puts the trend towards a more formidable Chinese submarine fleet by 2020 into a table:

China’s Submarine Fleet, 1990–2020

Type 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Diesel Attack 88 43 60 51 54 57-62 59-64
Nuclear Attack (SSN) 4 5 5 6 6 6-8 6-9
Nuclear Ballistic(SSBN) 1 1 1 2 3 3-5 4-5
Total 93 49 66 59 63 66-75 69-78

The report also notes the ongoing modernisation of the fleet, defining ‘modern’ submarines as those able to launch ballistic missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

China’s Submarine Fleet, 1990–2020, approximate percent ‘modern’

Type 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Diesel Attack 0% 0% 7% 40% 50% 70% 75%
Nuclear Attack 0% 0% 0% 33% 33% 70% 100%

That assessment is underlined by recent Congressional testimony from the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). The ONI also expects that by 2020 the ‘vast majority’ of China’s submarine force will be armed with ‘advanced, long-range ASCMs’. Moreover, apart from the possibility that a new Type 095 SSN could be equipped with a land-attack capability, the testimony reiterates the Pentagon’s expectation that the JIN-class SSBN will become operational in 2014, marking ‘China’s first credible at-sea second-strike nuclear capability’ against the continental US, Hawaii and Guam. Should the Chinese Navy (PLAN) increase its JIN-class boats from three to five it could sustain a continuous SSBN presence in the Western Pacific or the Indian Ocean.

Finally, the PLAN has started to address more seriously its notorious shortfalls in ASW capability. For example, a recent article in the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine (subscribers only) analyses China’s deployment of a fixed ocean-floor acoustic network off its coast to monitor foreign submarine activities in its ‘Near Seas’. While the authors note that it’s not yet clear to what degree the ‘generally weak’ Chinese ASW capability will benefit from that network, they also stress that the PLAN is undoubtedly putting more effort into strengthening its ASW capabilities. As my colleague Andrew Davies points out, major advances in ASW could greatly complicate Australia’s future submarine operations close to China’s shore.

Of course, it’ll take time for the PLAN to turn its new platforms into actual capabilities. For instance, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, effective command and control in SSBN operations will be a major challenge. But two decades from now the PLAN will be more proficient in undersea warfare as well as ASW. This will not only increase the detection risk for Australian submarines. As well, the undersea land-attack options canvassed in the 2009 Defence White Paper will become even more questionable. And while China’s ‘Near Seas’ will remain the primary operational focus of the PLAN for the time being, Chinese submarines will increasingly patrol in waters close to Australia—requiring attention of the ADF’s ASW capabilities, including submarines.

We might be thus better off leaving the increasingly crowded undersea space off the Chinese mainland to our US ally whose nuclear submarines (like the USS Maryland, pictured) are faster and better armed. Moreover, expect non-nuclear submarines of partner nations like Japan, South Korea or Vietnam to also operate in this space given their geographic proximity to China. As Peter Jennings argued at our conference, Australia should consider adopting a more modest assessment as to how far ‘up threat’ our submarines should operate in the future. In my view, this implies a focus on operations in the Eastern Indian Ocean and maritime chokepoints in the Indonesian archipelago. While this could mean fewer and smaller boats, they would still make critical contributions to Australia’s security and to allied operations by posing a credible threat to hostile surface and subsurface systems.

Benjamin Schreer is a senior analyst at ASPI. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Edward Snowden, the media and the Pulitzer

The Washington Post

The decision last week to award a Pulitzer Prize to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers for their coverage of classified material leaked by Edward Snowden has refocused attention on the pros and cons of both Snowden’s and the newspapers’ actions.

Some have praised the decision and have hailed the newspapers for being both ‘judicious and brave’ in their handling of the material. Others, including one of my ASPI colleagues, see little value in awarding the prize for what amounts to an unauthorised release of state secrets.

In truth, there’s merit in both positions. Unlike Wikileaks before it, which largely released material that was embarrassing to governments and militaries but has been of little lasting security harm, the Snowden case involves extremely sensitive material that has the potential to cause deep and lasting harm to the ability of America’s intelligence agencies—and, because of the five eyes relationship, Australia’s—to perform their roles. Making public some of the access points for interception of material, and the technological tricks required to exploit it, will play to the advantage of those trying to keep their communications out of the hands of American and allied agencies. And the nature of the intelligence business is that it’ll be difficult to know what’s been lost—it’s hard to quantify intercepts that don’t happen. Read more

In some cases that won’t be such a bad thing. I’ve argued before that intelligence collection against European allies didn’t pass the cost–benefit test that should’ve been applied. Losing those information channels probably won’t do the West’s security interests any harm. But taking a black and white view and painting American intelligence as the bad guys in all this makes little sense. In some cases, such as Snowden’s release of information about methods used to intercept al-Qaeda communications in their Mosul network, that clearly isn’t the case. Some of those aided by Snowden are clearly in the ‘black hat’ camp by any reasonable measure, and both terrorist groups and authoritarian states will benefit from knowing the ‘tricks of the trade’ used by the US and its allies.

The fact that Snowden himself is now ensconced in Russia and is offering himself up as an asker of Dorothy Dixers to Mr Putin suggests that he’s somehow managed some prodigious mental gymnastics of self-justification. That said, some good will also come of Snowden’s actions. Some of the NSA’s activities that were disclosed weren’t consistent with stated practice. The subsequent investigations by the press and civil liberty groups have uncovered material that makes the initial release reasonably fall into the whistle-blowing category. It seems clear that oversight wasn’t working as designed, and that the NSA wasn’t even working especially cooperatively within that system. The New York Times reported on a ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—a body set up to oversee the NSA’s collection activities on US soil. It was sharply critical of both the NSA’s ‘repeatedly inaccurate statements’ to the court and of some of its collection and analysis activities, which it judged to be unconstitutional and misleadingly reported to oversight bodies.

It’s hard to argue that it’s not in the public interest to have an open discussion of the matters raised in the NY Times article. That’s especially the case when the efficacy of the oversight mechanism itself is called into question by the judge charged with administering it:

“Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, N.S.A. had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the standard for querying,” Judge Bates recounted. He cited a 2009 ruling that concluded that the requirement had been “so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall … regime has never functioned effectively.”

Similarly, it’s a principle of good government that the expenditure of taxpayer’s funds should be done as transparently as possible. The post-9/11 ‘black hole’ that was the US intelligence budget violated that principle for no good purpose. It’s hard to see how the Washington Post imperilled anyone’s security by a selective release of the FY2013 budget papers. For example, knowing that 33% of the budget was going to countering violent extremism while only 8% was being spent on enhancing cybersecurity can only help inform a debate on the relative priority of those issues.

When assessing Snowden’s behaviour, the good outcomes (which are relatively easy to identify) have to be weighed against the bad (which mightn’t be so obvious) and I think he’s done more harm than good. But I can’t be similarly critical of the press. A robust liberal democracy depends on both an informed population and a fractious and difficult press that’s prepared to follow the dictum that ‘news is something that someone doesn’t want printed ‘. That’s certainly been the case here.

Andrew Davies is senior analyst for defence capability and director of research at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user Max Borge.

The pulse in Washington: US analysts’ views on the rebalance and Australia

US analysts said that Australia could further contribute to the rebalance by upgrading existing military bases in the Northern Territory and at HMAS Stirling in Perth. Pictured is USNS Cesar Chavez coming alongside for replenishment and stores, at Fleet Base West (HMAS Stirling), Western Australia.

Discussions with analysts in Washington over the last couple of weeks have provided a set of insights into how the US think-tank community views the US rebalance to Asia. I asked analysts from prominent think tanks and the National Defense University a number of questions, including how they saw the progress of the rebalance; how domestic and external factors were impacting the rebalance; and how they judged the contributions of US allies—Japan, South Korea and Australia—to US objectives in Asia.

On the first question—the progress of the rebalance—opinions were split. Some thought the US had pursued different aspects of the rebalance, be they military, economic or diplomatic, disjointedly, resulting in mixed messaging. During the first twelve months, the US had focused too heavily on military aspects of the rebalance, announcing Marine deployments to Darwin and increases in US Navy presence in the region. That signalled—incorrectly—that the rebalance was primarily about hard power. Then, from the end of 2012 to around October 2013, the momentum behind the rebalance was lost, primarily due to leadership transitions both in Asia and in the US, with President Obama shuffling his security team. In the last six months, the focus has shifted away from the military and towards the economic aspect of the rebalance, namely the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The overall effect has been to reinforce a picture of inconsistency, causing confusion and alarm in American allies in Asia and China. Read more

Other analysts argued that all aspects of the rebalance—military, economic and diplomatic—had, in fact, been evenly pursued by the Obama administration and that the strategy had been well expressed. The problem, as they saw it, was the media’s over-reporting on the military dimension and its neglect of others, resulting in a misunderstanding of the rationale behind the pivot by China and by US allies.

Overall, analysts in both groups conceded that there had been too much talk on the rebalance and not enough action. They believed that, both US domestic issues (sequestration) and external factors—such as Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the on-going civil war in Syria, and the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program—had diverted American attention and made the Obama administration look more ’scattered’ in its approach. Compounding that perception were statements by senior US officials that had brought the rebalance into question. Analysts pointed to one such statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry, when he said he was unconvinced a further military build-up in Asia was necessary, and another by the Commander of US Pacific Forces Admiral Samuel Locklear when he said climate change—not China—was the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region. Analysts felt those statements were missteps that had undermined the core message.

What about the contribution of key US allies to the rebalance? On Japan, there was a measure of frustration regarding the snail’s pace of transitioning the Japan Self Defense Forces into a more ‘normal’ military and the ‘very low’ percentage of GDP allocated to defence spending (currently at 1% but due to increase). Conversely, other analysts saw any advancement in Japan’s defence policy as positive. They preferred gradual changes to Japan’s constitution and defence spending lest a sudden adjustment further destabilise Japan’s relations with its neighbours. On South Korea, the feeling was that it should endeavour to repair its relations with Japan so that the two US allies can work more closely on security. Difficulties in Japan–ROK relations were identified as a major complication to the US realising many of its strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific.

How do they see Australia’s contribution to the rebalance? Not surprisingly, many commended Australia’s forthright response to China after Beijing announced its new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). One analyst described this as ‘critical to showing the region that Australia would stand up to China’ and said Australia’s action highlighted that ‘what China does affects every country in the region, not just those it has territorial disputes with’. Analysts also commended Australia’s consistent political support for the rebalance.

When asked to suggest what more might be done, analysts said that Australia could quicken the pace of the deployment of US Marines to Darwin, upgrade existing military bases in the Northern Territory and at HMAS Stirling in Perth, purchase more military hardware, and be more supportive of the US political positions in the region more generally. Australia could also be more assertive in its own neighbourhood, by deepening its relations with Indonesia and increasing its engagement with other ASEAN countries.

No doubt, American opinions regarding progress of the rebalance and the contribution of US allies to it will evolve as a consequence of Obama’s visit and other developments over coming months. Fresh insights into American perceptions of both the rebalance and other strategic issues will be the subject of future blog pieces.

Hayley Channer is an analyst at ASPI. She is currently a visiting scholar at the East-West Center, Washington DC. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

A tough week in Asia for Obama

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 26  March 2012.  President Obama will visit South Korea again this week, as well as Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines.United States President Barack Obama kicks off a visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines today, during which he’ll seek to convey strong US support for allies and commitment to the Asia Pacific without derailing the US–China relationship.

That’s a big ask, given the anxiety and scepticism about the strength of US engagement, and the array of tensions in the region at present. Of the countries he’s visiting, Japan and the Philippines now have particularly thorny relations with China. Beijing recently charged that both states are emboldened in their respective territorial disputes with China because they’re US allies; conversely, some in Washington worry that Tokyo’s and Manila’s concerns about US reliability could lead them to act unilaterally to shore up their security. 

Tokyo is especially nervous about US steadfastness, and is looking for a strong avowal of the US commitment to its treaty obligations. For its part, Seoul wants the US to maintain wartime operational control on the Korean peninsula beyond the agreed 2015. Some South Korean officials fear that transfer of control to South Korea, which the US seeks, might herald a lesser US commitment and encourage North Korean aggression. Read more

Meanwhile, Japan-South Korea relations have become neuralgic, with deep-seated historic grievances playing out at the leaders’ level. While Washington has worked hard to promote a slight thaw, the icy relationship between two of its allies has inhibited US efforts to mount a trilateral front on North Asian security issues. 

Even in Malaysia, where Obama will highlight the deepened US–Malaysia economic relationship and US focus on Southeast Asia, he’ll face the diplomatic complexity of the Malaysian aircraft search, including the strained China-Malaysia relationship.

The President will seek to demonstrate that the rebalance is alive and well by pointing to closer ties with allies, including the striking turnaround in the US-Philippines relationship, from the US being kicked out of Subic Bay in the 1990s to now nearing agreement on an expanded US military presence.

He can also point to strengthened engagement with other Southeast Asian states, including Singapore and Vietnam, and heightened support for regional institutions such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus. The Pentagon has expanded its regional military training and exercise program to involve more countries, with a focus on increasing cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has been particularly active having just made his fourth visit in a year to the region. He has also just hosted the inaugural US–ASEAN Defense Forum, a meeting of the defence ministers of all 11 nations. And Hagel’s tour of the Chinese aircraft carrier while in China only reaffirmed the extraordinary capability edge the US maintains over all other militaries in the region.

So President Obama has more to tout on this trip than some skeptics allow. Nevertheless, throughout the visit he’ll have to contend with a growing discussion about US weakness and possible retrenchment from the region. One part of this discussion involves the US response to global crises. Syria has highlighted a US reluctance to act, and Ukraine has reinforced the contention that the US is distracted by pressing events elsewhere.  Certainly, Secretary of State John Kerry has spent more time hewing at the rocks of Iran and the Middle East peace process than he has visiting Asia.

Another part is domestic, namely a polarised Congress and its dysfunctional relationship with the executive branch, which is limiting Obama’s ability to further the national interest abroad. This Asia trip itself is a revised version of a visit planned for last October that was cancelled due to the US government shutdown. The President missed last year’s APEC and East Asia Summit as a result, and US credibility as a regional leader was damaged. 

The Administration had hoped to showcase its regional leadership on this upcoming trip with a near complete Trans-Pacific Partnership, the economic centrepiece of the rebalance. But the TPP has stalled: Congress has been unwilling to grant the President fast-track negotiating authority in a congressional election year, depriving US negotiators of leverage needed in tough bilateral negotiations, such as those with Japan. 

Finally, Congress has presided over the remarkably blunt instrument to cut spending that is sequestration. The defence spending cuts are damaging force readiness and the US military’s ability to meet the demands of the rebalance, as well as the full suite of US global responsibilities. While a number on both sides of Congress now acknowledge sequestration is hurting national security, they haven’t been able to agree on repealing or ameliorating it. 

President Obama will be working hard to counter this narrative of US weakness, reassert authority, and reassure allies while not rattling China. It’s a complex set of messages. All eyes will be on the President to see how he calibrates them. 

Elsina Wainwright is a visiting senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University. Image courtesy of White House.

The ultimate aim: an Australia with more independent capacities

Southwestern Australia (NASA, International Space Station, 04/01/13)  The sun is about to set in this scene showing parts of southwestern Australia, which was photographed by one of the Expedition 35 crew members aboard the International Space Station on April 1, 2013. Several of the orbital outpost's solar array panels are seen in the foreground.

Michael Fullilove’s address to the National Press Club urging a ‘larger Australia’ engages directly with the vital question of Australia’s future. A subsequent query by his colleague Sam Roggeveen—‘What should Australia aim to achieve with this increased power and influence?’—goes to the nub of the issue and deserves exploration.

The most fitting answer is that a larger Australia would enable an increasingly independent and sovereign nation. Dependence on the United Kingdom and the United States has marked Australia’s evolution to nationhood. But is such dependence on external powers necessarily an element of a future Australia? Shouldn’t a larger Australia aim at achieving a greater capacity for independent action in both domestic and international affairs?

If we accept that Australia should and could aim for greater independence in both domestic and international affairs, we might start by exploring the ways in which this vision can be realised. Read more

Let’s examine a few of the key issues. First is population size. Our present population density of 3 persons per square kilometre (as compared to the US at 32, France 118 and Germany 262) is the lowest globally. This continent could support 60–80 million people (PDF), and this greater human capital would underpin a larger economy, a wealthier nation, and—perhaps more importantly—the economies of scale that would permit those communication and transport facilities (national broadband, super highways and high-speed railways) that the current population couldn’t sustain.

Still, Australia needs not merely a larger economy but a higher one. The recent closure of the car industry’s basic manufacturing facilities sounds a clarion call for Australia to push its economy further up the technology chain.

Developing and growing high-technology skills and industries requires the establishment of a range of major high-tech education-industrial bases. Across the globe, strong states—the US, Russia, China, Japan, India, France and Germany—are marked by a number of major high-tech industrial capacities that underpin their capacity for independent action. In particular, they all possess aerospace, IT and nuclear industries. Perhaps through an initial concentration on those three spheres Australia could gradually—over decades, or perhaps centuries—attain a domestic capacity that would allow greater options for our future.

The aerospace industry might be a fruitful initial foray into the sphere of high technologies precisely because of our existing links to the US. Australia hosts a range of tracking stations that provide the US a southern hemisphere base for space research, satellite communication and the monitoring of global communications and missile use. Yet Australia remains a junior partner in those nominally joint activities. Such dependence, where we have no need to pursue our own capacities in these fields, needs to be addressed in any pursuit of a larger Australia.

We could urge the US to join us in funding a major Australian academy aimed at developing domestic skills in aerospace theory and practice. That would eventually aid Australia in establishing aerospace and space industries, and would have intellectual and industrial spin-offs in many areas of the Australian economy. Further funding for such an enterprise could involve inserting a condition in all future aerospace procurement documents that requires successful tenderers to contribute a stipulated volume of skills or funding to that academy.

A similar pattern could be pursued in respect of an IT teaching–research–industry complex, that could be modelled upon Stanford–Palo Alto–Silicon Valley in California, where academic and industrial IT expertise comes together. While accepting there’s only so much that government planning and execution can achieve in such spheres, the creation of such an academy would provide Australia with the tools necessary to enhance virtually all aspects of social existence. A recent Ditchley Park conference underlined how important IT capacities will be as a key driver of future growth.

Then there’s the nuclear industry. While the export of uranium and the development of a nuclear industry have long been contentious issues in Australia, a larger Australia would need to make use of its ready access to uranium to develop a nuclear industry that could provide for its needs. Australia holds over 30%of the world’s uranium resources. While the ANSTO researches and applies small-scale uses of nuclear technology, the larger opportunities are still being discussed. The 2006 Switkowski report and its recommendations have gone nowhere. By providing the country with a generous supply of electricity, and reducing the many problems of fossil fuels, the nuclear option could provide the energy baseload for a larger Australia.

To ensure Australia has the skills and capacities to utilise its nuclear resources fully and safely, we would need to develop a research-educational-industrial complex engaging with everything from nuclear physics to power generation, including medical applications, materials engineering and the plethora of other uses of nuclear science. The funding of such a complex could be met in part from government funding, in part through income from the uranium industry, and subsequently through commercial applications of technology.

This proposed troika of research and industrial centres will be key to creating a richer, more powerful and more high-tech Australia. They’ll allow Australia to move into what Brynjolfsson and McAfee term the Second Machine Age.

Two points are worth reiterating in conclusion. First, without these industries and the skills that flow from them, Australia will remain limited in its capacity to pursue its own domestic and foreign policy agendas. The other point is that the greater independence of a larger Australia can’t be achieved quickly. Population growth is naturally incremental and it’ll take decades or centuries to realise the necessary industrial capacities. What’s key is recognition of the direction that Australia must travel if it’s to achieve an increased capacity for independent action and self-determination. A larger Australia with a higher economy is very much a part of this agenda.

Geoff Wade is a visiting fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. Image courtesy of Flickr user NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Cyber wrap

‘Catastrophic is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11’, says Bruce Schneier of the Heartbleed bug that emerged since our last cyberwrap. Heartbleed has been revealed as a flaw in the OpenSSL code that, under normal conditions, encrypts and protects Internet traffic, like usernames, passwords, digital certificates, cookies and credit card numbers. The faulty code has been in place since March 2012 and affects a huge swathe of the Internet including big names like Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Dropbox and Twitter. The bottom line seems to be change your passwords now and then again once the websites you use have patched the flaw. Mashable have put together a list of popular sites where password changes might be necessary. You can do your own searches here.

While Heartbleed has been kicking around for over two years, the fallout is as yet —and could remain— unknown. Aside from spurring fear and a flurry of password changes, the discovery shines a light on areas of the web that aren’t usually given much thought. OpenSSL code isn’t maintained by an esoteric tech business in Silicon Valley, but rather, by a handful of volunteers scattered across the globe. Recriminations have started as to the Australian government’s response to Heartbleed, with fingerpointing directed at the Attorney General’s Department for not equipping CERT Australia with a solid public response. Read more

Over to the US, and the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was awarded last week to The Guardian and The Washington Post for their stories on NSA surveillance. Peter W. Singer of Brookings believes that the accolade amounts to the first ‘cyber Pulitzer’, recognising that all issues are ‘being reshaped by the cyber realm, whether it’s communications, commerce, critical infrastructure, or conflict…’. As the scandal du jour, the NSA revelations have provided a backdrop for seemingly any public conversation on intelligence or surveillance since June 2013. On Heartbleed, for example, it wasn’t long before some outlets were reporting that the NSA knew about— and exploited— the vulnerability for intelligence collection purposes. While the NSA and the White House both issued denials, it may be difficult for some to accept the official line in a post-Snowden era.

On the Aussie cyber front, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has  released a consultation paper, the responses from which will inform the development of a national security science and technology (S&T) policy. The program will focus on ‘aiding, enhancing and future-proofing the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) capability; advanced tools and techniques particularly for ACSC transition of technology and processes to national networks; and establishing national S&T workforce and skills that are relevant and responsive to operational cyber security needs’. Consultations will conclude 1 May. Take a look at the paper here (PDF).

There’s been some interesting research out in the past week. The prowess of the Syrian Electronic Army, Iran’s role as an increasingly potent cyber player and China’s expansive data theft campaigns were all key elements of the evolving cyber threat landscape identified in the Mandiant’s M-Threats paper. Pew Research Centre polls show that 18% of American adults have had important personal information stolen online, up from 11% in July 2013. While we can look to increasing technical sophistication or malware proliferation to explain that jump, the only way to turn the tide is by replacing inaction with ownership when it comes to personal cyber security.

Finally, Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull was on hand last Tuesday to help ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre launch its inaugural Cyber Maturity in the Asia-Pacific 2014 report and interactive map. The report looks beyond rhetoric of cyberwar and cybercrime, using the rubric of maturity to study the presence, implementation and operation of cyber-related structures, policies, legislation and organisations. The report looks at a spectrum of issue areas to build a more comprehensive understanding of the field and spur discussion and debate around how the region can constructively engage in cyberspace.

With the hope that the report will be ‘suitably controversial’, the International Cyber Policy Centre team welcomes your input, comments, and criticisms. Join the discussion @ASPI_ICPC using #cybermaturity.

David Lang is an intern in ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre.

The Canberra officer (4): taming the service chiefs

"GEN Sir Phillip Bennett, royal governor of Tasmania, prepares to place a wreath at a memorial during a service, part of ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea." (May 1982)

When the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force make a combined visit to the Prime Minister, it can mean coup, revolution or war. So when the three service chiefs met John Howard, in Sydney on Friday 4 April 1997, elements of all three were in the air. The conflict was all inside the Defence Force. The Chief of the Defence Force had staged a coup over the previous two decades as he’d been slowly absorbing the powers of the service chiefs. Within a week, the government was scheduled to release the Defence Efficiency Review, tipped as the most important reorganisation of Defence in nearly a quarter of a century. As a result the war over lines of command and power flared into open revolt.

The review marked another phase in the evolution of jointery, the taming of the service tribes and elevation of the Defence Force chief so his power matched his title. As the military shifted from the Old to the New Testament it created new names and identities—crucially, the Australian Defence Force and CDF (wonderful examples of the invention of tradition).

In this evolution, the Chief of Defence Force Staff in 1976 replaced the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. From chairman to chief was a shift that mattered. Under the changes, the service chiefs were responsible to the Defence Minister, through the CDFS, for command of their services, but service chiefs still had the right of direct access to the Minister. Read more

In 1984, the CDFS became Chief of the Defence Force (CDF)—a recommendation of the Utz report that the top military job had to have clear authority to match its responsibilities. The first CDF, Sir Phillip Bennett (pictured), built substance into the new name and continued the fight to get staff to go with it. Mobilising the symbols, he had the sign ‘Headquarters Australian Defence Force’ placed outside his Russell office and the number plate ‘ADF 1’ placed on his official car.

Horner judged that the expanding role of the CDF and the creation of joint commands meant that, by 1988, the service chiefs had been ‘removed from the chain of command for operations, much as they had been in World War 2.’

The tribal battles still raged. Horner noted that in 1996, the CDF, General John Baker, announced significant changes to the command and control arrangements because he ‘believed that the 1974-76 reorganisation had left the ADF without a command structure above the tactical level, and that the services had been slow to rectify this shortcoming…Baker knew that he did not have the staff to command the ADF adequately.’

All this brings us to the service chiefs who fronted the Prime Minister in 1997 to ask for more time to implement the Review; their argument wasn’t to turn back the tide but to slow its  pace. They got a good hearing but little sympathy.

A week after that meeting, the Defence Minister, Ian McLachlan, made the Review public; at the press conference, the flags of the Army, Navy and Air Force were in the room, but the service chiefs weren’t. McLachlan was flanked by General Baker and the secretary of Defence, Tony Ayers. The service chiefs’ no-show said what had to be said about the revolt. That fortnight ranks as the last major pitched battle at the top of the ADF over the principles of jointery and the CDF’s role in giving advice to the government.

In May 1997, as the dust settled, Baker claimed that the new command arrangements ‘are probably at the forefront of military thinking in the world’ while admitting there was ‘still a degree of rivalry between the services and there always will be.’

Looking at the first century of federation, Horner concluded: ‘By 2000 the ADF had developed a uniquely Australian command structure… The ADF now had a single commander, the CDF, who could both advise the government on military matters and exercise strategic command of the ADF.’

The service chiefs still matter hugely as tribal heads and as elite examples of the skills required to be a Canberra officer. Indeed, part of the mandate of the chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force is to foster a cadre of officers who can step up to operate in the Canberra system. The service chiefs run the system to produce a CDF to reign over them. The taming of the service chiefs over 40 years was necessary not just to establish that hallowed military goal, unity of command. It was vital so the military could produce one man—the passenger in ADF 1—who could drive the ADF’s interests.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalism fellow. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

ASPI suggests: Easter edition

Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11. Frewen said the rotation is a tangible sign of the strength between Australia and the United States.

It’s a long weekend in Australia with Easter public holidays so regular blogging will resume Tuesday 22 April. Until then, here are ASPI’s picks in new reports and other interesting things to read, view or listen to.

Let’s kick off with a futuristic piece by Patrick Tucker over at Defense One on why there will be a robot uprising. Tucker explores research by computer scientist and entrepreneur Steven Omohundro that says artificial intelligence will be ‘anti-social’ unless design changes are made today. Essentially, robots are ‘utility function junkies’ which means that they’ll obsessively refine their primary task without worrying about ‘costs in terms of relationships, discomfort to others, etc., unless those costs present clear barriers to more primary function. This sort of computer behavior is anti-social, not fully logical, but not entirely illogical either.’ Keep reading here. Read more

For policymakers working on how to deepen defence cooperation between states, this Clingendael report examines the interactions between sovereignty and defence cooperation in the case of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Although it relies on a European case study, some of the key findings are useful in contemplating the challenges of expanding defence cooperation and building trust in our region.

If you’re interested in what has happened to the US rebalance, this longer WaPo article explores how President Obama intends to reinvigorate his Asia strategy. It’s also a useful overview of the rebalance’s genesis and how it has responded to some of the region’s challenges like the announcement of China’s ADIZ.

Speaking of American ties to the region, the US and South Korea have just announced that they’ve agreed to bolster efforts to deter North Korean provocations. Of note is a joint statement (full text here) that includes the line ‘The two sides discussed ways to strengthen the combined defense posture to defend the Republic of Korea and to deter North Korean aggression by enhancing combined Alliance capabilities, and continuing combined exercises.’ This development follows the end of Exercise SsangYong, a bilateral amphibious assault exercise between the US Navy and Marines with South Korea Marines as well as a small contingent of Australian forces.

If you’re interested in private military contractors, check out CIMSEC’s special series that includes part I of Scott Cheney-Peters’ work on private maritime security companies (PMSCs) in South and Southeast Asia. It’s worth reading for a rundown of the historical trade context and threats like piracy that give rise to PMSCs.

For defence capability, our pick is an RSIS commentary by Wu Shang-su (PDF) that looks at the viability of Taiwan’s indigenous submarine program. In addition to establishing a domestic ship-building industry, Wu argues that Taiwan will also face political challenges in its bilateral relations with both the US and China as well as technological ones if it pursued a diesel (SSK) design.


In the first episode of a New Mandala video series (approx 12 minutes in length), ANU’s Ross Tapsell interviews his colleague Greg Fealy and prominent Indonesian activist and political analyst Usman Hamid on the implications of the recent Indonesian legislative elections for Jokowi and the presidency.

It’s been two years since the first 250 US Marines touched down in Darwin as part of a rotational force designed to further strengthen the alliance through training and working with the ADF. The latest contingent to arrive in Darwin a few weeks ago is now 1,150 personnel in size. This video is a brief behind-the-scenes glimpse of their arrival, including a look at the kinds of additional air assets the Marines have brought with them to support their rotation. For an insight on how the forces are sharing knowledge and building interoperability, this short video captures some weapons training and impressions of both the American and Australian personnel.


Lastly, listen to the first Asia Pacific segment in CIMSEC’s Sea Control podcast series, featuring interviews with ASPI analysts. This week, I interviewed Rosalyn Turner on her recent research on unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) including the type being used now in the MH370 aircraft search. The podcast also features Mark Thomson on the challenges of picking Australia’s future submarine.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Marine Corps.