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Crucial Role Of National Defense Strategy
by Jim Garamone, DOD News
November 29, 2023

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III calls the National Defense Strategy the department's "North Star," and officials throughout the world are working to implement the strategy and link the strategy to resources, said Mara Karlin, who is performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

March 24, 2023 - Mara Karlin, performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, speaks to U.S. Army West Point Academy cadets during a tour to the Pentagon. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders.)
March 24, 2023 - Mara Karlin, performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, speaks to U.S. Army West Point Academy cadets during a tour to the Pentagon. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders.)

Karlin just returned from meetings in Australia discussing the trilateral defense agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, she fought off the effects of jet lag to brief reporters on the trip and to mark the one-year anniversary of the release of the National Defense Strategy

"We continue to see a rapidly changing global balance of military capabilities, an escalation of competitors malign activities, the introduction of emerging technologies, and enduring transboundary challenges that pose difficulties for our collective security for the foreseeable future," she said. "We have seen increasingly risky and coercive military activities in the Indo-Pacific and an unprovoked [and] brutal invasion of Ukraine. And, of course, we have witnessed the harrowing events in Hamas' recent terrorist attacks against Israel."

China, Russia, Iran, terrorism and more present daunting difficulties, she said, but the nation remains committed to facing the challenges and maintaining U.S. leadership in the world.

The strategy implementation in the Indo-Pacific region has been particularly successful, she said. In addition to the AUKUS security agreement among Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., there have been agreements with Japan and South Korea. There are additional opportunities with the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. U.S. military relations with India, Indonesia, Singapore and more have become closer. The efforts in the region are "delivering a U.S. military that is more capable, more forward and more deeply integrated with our allies and partners than ever before," she said.

U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific are receiving new military capabilities, testing new doctrine and operating in more areas. "Being forward [deployed] means being more physically visible and agile in the region," she said. "We're updating our posture from a concentration of large operating bases in Northeast Asia, and our agreements with Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea are updating our posture and enabling the U.S. military to be more distributed and resilient."

Half a world away, U.S. efforts to support Ukraine as it resists Russian invasion also strengthens U.S. deterrence in the Indo-Pacific. "By reinforcing our stance against Russian aggression in Europe, we signal our resolve against all forms of global aggression," Karlin said. "Russia remains an acute threat …, one that is immediate and sharp. Over the past year and a half since Russia's invasion, we continue to stand with Ukraine. We have moved assistance with unprecedented speed, including more than $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration."

And the United States is not operating in a vacuum, other NATO and partner nations have matched U.S. support also producing tens of billions of dollars of security assistance as Ukraine pushes back the Russian bear.

The Hamas terror attack on Israel shows terrorist organizations cannot be ignored, and she said the United States maintains the capabilities to respond to contingencies without major impacts to the European or Indo-Pacific theaters.

Secretary Austin is personally involved in overseeing implementation of the highest priority national defense strategy efforts, particularly focusing on the most complex and cross-cutting issues, Karlin said. The secretary routinely meets with DOD leaders to discuss the situation and how they are moving along. Austin has also empowered senior leaders to change their processes, policies and plans to align with the National Defense Strategy.

The department has made tremendous progress in "operationalizing" the defense strategy. "Of course, this work is generational in nature, and we have much work ahead of us," she said.

"This all marks a major departure from past strategy implementation efforts," she said. That work will require bipartisan support, she said. "I actually see substantial bipartisan agreement across the American public, across our Congress in terms of the need to focus, in particular, on urgently sustaining and strengthening deterrence vis-a-vis the People's Republic of China," Karlin said.

She said she believes that most Americans agree "on the need to make sure we have security and stability in the Indo-Pacific and an understanding [of] why the United States needs to play a role working closely with our allies and partners in ensuring that that is a reality."

Karlin said U.S. leadership is key to strategic success of the international rules-based order. She said a recent example of the role the U.S. must play is Austin's trip to Europe and the Middle East last month. "It was, in many ways, a spectacular example of the importance of American leadership," she said.

On the first day of the trip, the secretary convened the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group with 50-plus allies and partners discussing support to Ukraine. "The next day, he sat in NATO defense ministerial, where there was robust discussion on the tremendous progress that we have seen across NATO, which is getting bigger," she said.

The very next day, the secretary traveled to Israel to discuss support to the nation as it reeled from the Hamas terror attack. "It's a role not able to be played by other countries," she said. "[It] very much requires the United States to work very closely with other countries from around the world, and I would argue when we are doing that, we see increased security, stability and peace."

Still, there are Americans who believe the nation does not need allies and partners. "I am hard pressed to find examples where it strategically makes sense for us to operate on our own: Go all the way back to our Revolutionary War and the support that we got from the French," she said. "The history of the United States is working with allies and partners in various ways, and the evidence is there of just how much stronger we are together."

U.S. Department of Defense

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