Strengthening Alliance Deterrence
Effective deterrence is built upon perceptions of the alliance’s ability to prevail in the event of conflict. We must reinforce this perception by building alliance force capabilities with a clear-eyed view of our new reality. Prevailing while fighting outnumbered beneath the nuclear threshold in an age of guided weapons and pervasive surveillance requires development of capabilities that must be permitted in the pending legislation, promptly fielded and aggressively practiced in continuous bilateral and multilateral exercises.
We must fight as one force while distributed over a wide area, and operate at a speed faster than any potential opponent. That means data-driven, secure communications to permit mutual support between U.S. and Japanese forces and mutual support among forces operating in the different domains. An integrated, comprehensive allied common operating picture must be available to all alliance forces. This will require changes to our current communications equipment and capabilities. Perhaps more important, it will require education and training for our forces’ commanders and staff in the integration of alliance operations. We must enhance our bilateral training activities to validate our technical capabilities and educate commanders and staff officers on the management of our integrated forces.
We must build endurance and innovation into our capabilities through solid research and development cooperation and U.S.-Japan industrial cooperation. Recent changes to Japanese laws governing the export of military articles make it possible for us to combine our efforts for best advantage. The successful co-development of the Aegis missile, the SM-3 Block 2A version, points the way to mutually beneficial combined efforts that enhance the defense industries of both nations.
We must support our men and women in the services with the capabilities they need while being good stewards of our defense resources. We must make the best use of our current equipment through selective upgrades to ensure that all of our forces can operate effectively in the emerging conditions. We must pace threat developments and ensure an ability to integrate with new equipment acquisitions. One possibility is cost-effective upgrades of our existing aircraft to better meet threat capabilities and effectively integrate with newer aircraft joining the inventory. This cooperative engagement capability will exploit and extend the advantages of the newer craft’s advanced capabilities to the entire allied force. Another would be upgrades of existing communications gear to ensure effective—and secure—integration across alliance forces and with newer, more-capable devices procured over time. The goal must be to assure seamless integration, as called for in the Guidelines, at the tactical level across air, land and sea. One compelling example is enabling aircraft from each nation to provide close fire support for the other nation’s ground and maritime units. Yet another is collocation of Japanese and U.S. command posts to build the interpersonal relationships and trust needed in high-intensity operations.
Prime Minister Abe illustrated a practical example of Collective Self-Defense by talking about a U.S. Aegis ship protecting Japan suddenly being attacked by enemy forces. He said it was right and proper that Japan come to the aid of the U.S. ship, even though Japan was not itself under attack. The United States certainly agrees with that declaration. Such an attack could come from forces at sea, such as high-speed cruise missile craft, in the air, or even on land, with cruise missiles or artillery fire. Attacks from under the sea—submarines—are also possible. If Japanese Self-Defense Forces are to execute an immediate response to such attacks, both U.S. and Japanese forces must have a clear and common view of all friendly and enemy forces and must be able to integrate actions through data communications passing real-time information and direction. Without such integrated capability, we risk a late or impotent response, or worse—fratricide. Deterrence relies heavily on our ability to build such alliance capabilities.
Joint Dynamic Defense, Collectively
Yet another Japanese achievement deserves prominent mention in closing. Japan’s adoption of a Joint Dynamic Defense doctrine in the most recent National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program is a major initiative. This promises the effective operational and tactical integration of Japanese forces across air, land and sea under a single command element. This Joint Task Force model will create agile, rapid and integrated maneuver capability across Japan’s 6,852 islands and permit effective and responsive support to other Japanese security elements. Now we must build the necessary capabilities—technical, intellectual and interpersonal—to implement this Joint Task Force organizational doctrine for the Self-Defense Force, and across the alliance, to ensure effective deterrence.
These capabilities are urgently needed to defend the Southwest Islands, also known as Okinawa Prefecture. The Guidelines call for the collocation of operational coordination functions. Therefore, a good place to establish such a Japanese Joint Task Force command element is Okinawa, the area most under pressure, collocated with Joint Task Force–capable major U.S. command elements[i] already present in mainland Japan and Okinawa.
Wallace C. Gregson is Senior Director, China and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2005 with the rank of Lieutenant General. He last served as the Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific; Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific; and Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Pacific, headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii. Gregson also served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs from 2009-2011.
[i] 5th Air Force; 7th Fleet; III Marine Expeditionary Force
Image: Flickr/U.S. Pacific Command