Looking beyond the immediate area of Japan, we can use this SCMJTF organization and exercise design to take advantage of the planned extension of alliance presence to Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and into the vast air and sea space of the Compact States.
Much of the framework is in place. The United States supports the continuous presence and training of Japanese forces in Guam and the Commonwealth. The U.S. maintains agreements with the Compact States that call for their support of our security requirements. The relatively uncrowded air, sea, and frequency-allocation space across this vast area, as well as the extensive environmental work already done under the Marianas Range Complex environmental impact studies, invites the creation of high-fidelity alliance training, making use of modest live forces linked through virtual and constructive simulation across a wide area. Small units doing live training across air, land and sea could maneuver in this space to become comfortable with distributed aviation operations and use of non-military commercial shipping to move around and through archipelagic areas. Operational use of 5G technology might be another objective. Our combined operations and training in this vast area will develop our operational and logistics support skills in widely distributed and mobile air, sea and land operations. The presence our forces in these small islands nations is an added benefit, showing our interest and helping to counter malign influences.
Admiral Davidson’s most recent posture statement called on all to “operationalize Multi-Domain and Distributed Operations concepts.” If our objective is defense of the vast First Island Chain archipelago, we should train in similar environments. There is no better place or method for this to be done other than in this maritime theater, and in the area of our territories and the Compact States. Admiral Davidson also launched his “Pacific Multi-Domain Training and Experimentation Capability (PMTEC) Initiative.” In this he calls for linking and integrating our numerous training and experimentation installations and capabilities across the Pacific. An alliance training capability across Guam, the Commonwealth and the Compact States can anchor this and be a productive way to enhance training and ensure a more effective common—and collective—defense of Japan.
Wallace C. Gregson, a retired Marine and former assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs (2009–11), is currently a senior advisor at Avascent International and senior director for China and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest.