Conflicts - TensionsFree and Open Indo-Pacific/FOIP

Accelerate to maintain deterrence edge, experts say


The message to 1,900 representatives from 15 nations across the Indo-Pacific came repeatedly during the largest-ever Pacific Operational Science & Technology (POST) Conference in early March 2024: There is a need for speed.

“Three words: Accelerate. Accelerate. Accelerate. I think we all agree we need to go faster,” said Maj. Gen. Joshua M. Rudd, chief of staff, United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

Rudd read a sampling of news headlines to the audience, including an account of testimony from the leaders of the U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Space Command. They warned the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia were “moving breathtakingly fast” in building counterspace weapons.

“That’s what drives us. That’s what gets us up every day. It motivates us to do everything we can to ensure there isn’t a conflict. That’s our priority. That’s our effort — avoid conflict,” Rudd said, calling on Allies and Partners, private industry, government, and academia to develop innovative warfighting capabilities to deter aggression.

Rear Adm. Hyo-Sang Ryu, director general of the advance forces planning bureau for South Korea’s national defense administration, led a 14-member delegation from his country to the conference. The message from Rudd and others was familiar.

“Our senior leadership, including the minister of defense, they are emphasizing speed and acceleration,” Ryu told FORUM.

Heidi Shyu, U.S. undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, gives a keynote speech at the 2024 Pacific Operational Science & Technology Conference in Hawaii.
IMAGE CREDIT: National Defense Industrial Association

The four-day conference in Hawaii, with the theme of “Posturing for Tomorrow — Partnered/Positioned/Prepared,” included panel discussions, workshops, networking sessions, and technology demonstrations for representatives from business, military and government entities. The annual event is hosted by USINDOPACOM and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Multiple speakers cited the U.S.’s 2022 National Defense Strategy, which identified the PRC as the “most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades … based on the PRC’s increasingly coercive actions to reshape the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to fit its authoritarian preferences.”

Dr. George Kailiwai III, USINDOPACOM’s director of requirements and resources, said the conference’s large turnout was indicative of the international climate.

“It is what the National Defense Strategy is all about: that China is our primary threat, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is certainly responsible to deter aggression in this region, as well as fighting and winning, if necessary,” he told FORUM. “We’re facing an adversary that can produce things very quickly and so we need to ensure that we continue to outpace any adversary here in the region.”

The challenge, participants said, is to bridge the gap between innovation and practical application.

Nicole Kilgore, deputy joint program executive officer for the U.S.’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, said that may require “incremental deliveries.”

“With incremental deliveries, it doesn’t mean that we have to have the 100% solution and waiting to get it gold-plated,” she said. “But delivering incremental capabilities allows me to do the layering and to insert innovation. It’s not the final answer, but it gets capabilities into the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible.”

Keynote speakers included Heidi Shyu, U.S. undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Dr. Tanya Monro, Australia’s chief defense scientist. Doug Beck, director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit and senior advisor to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, also spoke.

Shyu said the Defense Department “cannot afford for useful research to languish in the laboratories, for bureaucratic processes to prevent engagement with innovative private companies or to allow old paradigms to prevent collaboration with some of our most trusted partners.”

Focus, urgency and collaboration are needed to deliver advanced capabilities to warfighters, while judiciously investing in scaling ideas that can provide technological advantages for decades to come, she said.

“Our integrated deterrence is significantly bolstered by the asymmetric advantage presented by our closest network of Allies and Partners,” Shyu said.

Ryu said he appreciated such insights and that he “was able to learn more about science and technology developments that are ongoing, and it also helped us identify the directionality that Korea has to take for the future.”

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