Admiral Timothy Keating Event Transcript


FRED KEMPE:  This is terrific.  There are more stars and bars in this room than we usually have.  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Atlantic Council, I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO.  And welcome to this evening’s commander series with the commander of the United States Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy Keating.

I know many of you have attended our commander series on a regular basis.  Let me just say a couple of words about what this series has been about.  We have created with this – and I must say, it’s been one of the most popular things we’ve introduced – a public platform for senior U.S. and global military leaders to share their views and concerns with a Washington audience.

The program has become an authoritative opportunity for military leaders to shape the security debate in Washington and beyond.  Since the beginning of this series we’ve had the commanders of EUCOM, NORTHCOM, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chief of staff of the Army, and two of the most recent commanders in Afghanistan.  It is a flagship program for the Atlantic Council and I want to think Saab AB and Ambassador Henrik Liljegren, board member of the Atlantic Council, for Saab’s support of this series.

I’m also delighted with the turnout today, which says a lot, as well, about the popularity of the series.  Now, Admiral, I do have to mention one thing.  Some people ask me, why is the Atlantic Council floating its boat in the Pacific?  The answer is pretty simple: it’s a matter of history, it’s a matter of mission and it’s a matter of reality.

There was, before the war, a very famous ambassador by the name of U. Alexis Johnson, quite legendary ambassador to Japan.  After the war, when the Atlantic Council was founded, he was one of the founders.  He and Dean Acheson, another one of the founders, were very clear that the world was round and that the Atlantic Council had to recognize that much earlier than most transatlantic organizations.  So that’s the history.

Number two, there’s the mission.  The mission of the Atlantic council is renewing the Atlantic community for 21st-century global challenges.  It’s why we’ve long had a successful Asia program for many years, directed by Banning Garrett, recently opened up a South Asia center, directed by Shuja Nawaz, and are launching a center for Atlantic-African partnership.  This evening is under the international security program and the director, Damon Wilson.

So, and there’s the reality.  Take a look at the situation now:  NATO reaching out to develop it’s global partnerships with Japan, Australia, South Korea; Asian powers playing a key role in stabilizing Afghanistan; the U.S. and E.U. working together to engage China and India on global climate change; the G-20 bringing together key Asian and European partners to address the global financial crisis; North Korea – I don’t have to say much about that; Security developments in the Pacific, such as the development of long-range ballistic missiles impact the debate on missiles in Europe.

I think this link has been apparent since the U.S. entered World War II in Europe after the attack in the Pacific.  So, Admiral, the Atlantic Council will continue to float its boat, as well, in the Pacific.  I now want to turn the podium over to the Honorable Walt Slocombe, the secretary of board and a vice chair of the Atlantic Council, and former undersecretary of defense for policy.

He’s going to introduce our speaker and will later moderate the Q&A session.  Walt, who’s now with Caplin & Drysdale, is – and this is not an overuse of the word – a pillar of the Atlantic Council.  He provides me and the rest of our leadership strategic advice, as well as sound legal advice.  I am still free, walking around, and have not yet been incarcerated; that’s all because of Walt Slocombe.  Walt, I’m grateful for you service, and we’re delighted to have such a distinguished former Pentagon official moderate this evening’s discussion.


WALTER B. SLOCOMBE:  Thanks, Fred.  It’s a great honor to be asked to introduce Admiral Keating.  He has that kind of résumé that mere mortals only dream of.  He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1971, shortly thereafter began a distinguished career as a naval aviator.  The most impressive thing is not the stripes on his sleeve, or the stars if he were wearing a slightly different uniform; it’s that he has carried out 1200 arrested landings on aircraft carriers.

He was the deputy commander of an air wing during the First Gulf War and he was the commander of NAVCENT during the Second Gulf War.  In between, like all senior military officers, he’s had to do the occasional penance, working in Washington in a variety of jobs.  I had the honor and pleasure of working with him when he was the deputy J-3 during the ’90s.  He then became – after his service in connection with Operation Iraqi Freedom – he became the director of the joint staff, which is the critical position, as I’m sure most of you know, in making that remarkable organization work as well as it does thanks to his efforts and the efforts of a lot of other people and to the Goldwater-Nichols law.

He was then commander – he’s had two – I still call them CINCs – two CINCs jobs – two combat commanders – one at NORAD and the Northern Command, and as you all know, because you wouldn’t be here otherwise, he’s the commander of the Pacific Command.  It’s a real pleasure to have the opportunity to hear his insights into the military and indeed the larger American and strategic role in that critical part of the world.  Admiral Keating, welcome to the Atlantic Council, and thank you for doing this.


ADMIRAL TIMOTHY KEATING:  Thank you very much, thanks.  Thank you all for this really great opportunity.  A couple of words by preamble: I had the distinction of working for then-undersecretary of defense for policy Walt Slocombe for a while, as he mentioned.  Few officials, in my experience, have had more consequential impact on what the Department of Defense does, did, and is doing than Walt Slocombe.  He was USDP for a long time and in my humble opinion did a magnificent job.  And it’s my honor and privilege to be standing here in front of you having been introduced by – who’d have thunk that back then we would be standing here today?

To Fred, thank you – oh, in fairness, I have to point out – that was a great introduction, and I’m grateful.  But it’s not the best introduction I’ve ever had.  (Laughter.)  It was good, it was very good – (laughter) – and it was accurate.  The best introduction I’ve ever had was of a much smaller group at I think a rotary club in Opa-locka, Florida, where the master of ceremonies was late and they asked me if I would mind introducing myself.  (Laughter.)  That’s the best.  (Laughter.)

We’ve got some – we’ve got, while it’s the Atlantic Council, we have the appropriate visual aid here and I’d like to start with that if I can, and I’m cutting some of you guys out – to describe the Pacific Command AOR – area of responsibility.  I’ll work hard to keep acronyms down to a minimum, but it’s in our vernacular, as you know.

So we have the North Pole; we have the South Pole; we have Alaska to California; we have the east coast of Africa.  That is the Pacific Command area of responsibility.  It’s a pretty large – it’s 50 percent of the surface of the earth, for what it’s worth – about 51 percent of the world’s population.  We’ve got a number of pretty large armies – China, we have some responsibility for the eastern part of Russia.  So China’s army, Russia’s army, North Korea’s army, India’s army, our Army, our armed forces – pretty consequential.

There’s significant economic initiative underway out here.  About $1 trillion – a trillion bucks – of our trade comes from countries in our area of responsibility.  Twenty of the largest ports in the world – of those 20, 15 are in the AOR, nine of them – nine of the largest ports in the world are now in the People’s Republic of China and the world’s biggest port now, Shanghai, by volume, is in our area of responsibility.

So it is a vibrant, dynamic, living, breathing place in which we have the privilege of working and conducting our business.  About a year ago, we decided to rewrite our strategy.  We’d been in the Pacific Command for decades.  The guns have largely been silent in our area of responsibility; for that we are immensely grateful, and it is no accident.  It is due to the efforts of the several in the room, and that is, again, including Walt Slocombe and General Brent Scowcroft.

But we wanted to take what got us where we are and try and catapult it five, 10, 20 years into the future.  It’s a dynamic AOR; the economic engine is churning and there are opportunities and challenges aplenty out there.  If you think about the countries in our area of responsibility – and we’ll walk around here in just a minute – but if you think about them and realize how much room there is for growth, how much opportunity there is for, in some cases, adventurism – or Korea, in some cases bad behavior – but in many more cases than not, cooperating and collaborating to ensure more peace and more stability in the region, that’s why we chose to undertake the process of writing a new strategy for the United States Pacific Command based a lot on what we saw in the rear-view mirror, but trying, as I say, to look five, 10, 20 years down the road – an ambitious undertaking to be sure.

We ended up coming down to three basic tenets of our new strategy – partnership – I’ll talk about each one of them in a minute – partnership, readiness, and presence.  Pretty simple to explain; not so easy to execute.  Partnership – we’re convinced that building upon the very strong bilateral relationships and alliances we have in our AOR.  We have five treaties – Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.  A majority of our country’s treaties involve countries in our AOR, so we build on those longstanding – some of them decades old – bilateral relationships to weave a fabric that has included as its threads multilateral engagement and not just mil-to-mil.

Increasingly, we see opportunities for including elements across the DIME, if you will – diplomatic, intelligence, military and energy and environment.  So we’re looking to cobble all this together in an increasingly tightly woven fabric that emphasizes multilateralism – and I’ll try to site some examples for it in just a minute – and the ability we have as the predominate military power in the region to provide some rudder, some guidance – in some cases leadership – to all of these countries in our area of responsibility.

Some examples that you might be interested in: India.  Once upon a time, prior to my work with Walt, I was the flag lieutenant to then – here’s a term again: CINCPAC – Admiral William J. Crowe, in the mid-’80s.  And for about a year-and-a-half, if you will, I carried my bags – so there’s hope for all of us who are a little younger – but I was carrying Admiral Crowe’s bags around and we made a visit to India.  The CINC went with pretty high expectations and they were largely unfulfilled.  The reception we got was a little chilly, the engagements on a policy level were not very forthcoming, the hospitality was cordial but not overflowing, and the old man left less happy than we liked him to be, generally.

We just went to India for the second time a couple weeks ago.  Much different visit; much different country.  We got there on the last day of their elections.  It is an amazing process – some of you may have had the good fortune of watching India’s national elections.  It is – some call it the greatest show on earth.  Folks were flocking to the televisions in manner and in numbers that were somewhat unusual to us – glued to the big-screen TVs.

Their government today is more willing to talk about engagement and partnership with the United States than they were in the mid-’80s.  They are exercising with us on a much more robust basis – we just concluded a trilateral exercise; unthinkable in the ’80s – Japan, United States and India in the Sea of Japan.  And it was a fairly spirited, high-end technical exercise if you will, where we weren’t just doing division tactics; we were exercising weapons and techniques and procedures that are pretty high-end.

Two years ago, India participated in a five-way exercise including U.S., Japan, Singapore and Australia – unthinkable in the mid-’80s and it’s now a matter of course with India.  So we think that this is a great example of partnership and the benefits we can all derive from increased dialogue, increased cooperation, and increased understanding of what we are all about in the AOR.

Readiness – doesn’t do us any good to have all manner of forces that can’t get out there and exercise, that cannot get out there and respond to military operational directives from the secretary of defense or the president of the United States to provide assistance to countries who don’t quite have all these resident capabilities and to get out there and exercise with them as an example.

Cobra Gold – some of you may have participated in Cobra Gold in younger lives.  This is an exercise in Thailand held every year – this year, five countries involved, 10 countries sent observers.  Think about that.  Ten countries – India and PRC included – sent observers to watch ships, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coastguardsmen operating in a real, live field exercise in a very dynamic and vibrant way and it concluded with shifting from war-fighting, if you will, or exercising the capability – we hope we don’t have to do it, but exercising capability – shifting over to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and United Nations peacekeeping operations.

So it started out fairly aggressive and ended up not just peace-making, but peacekeeping, all under the umbrella of exercise Cobra Gold.  We are in our 35th year; never has participation been more vigorous and more spirited.  So that’s the readiness piece – it is essential for us to be able to field forces that can move out and exercise across the full spectrum of military operational capabilities that you would expect of us at the United States Pacific Command.

The third element of our strategy is presence.  The JOs, as is their wont – junior officers; it’s an acronym – in our headquarters say it this way:  “Virtual presence equals actual absence.”  We’re all used to the wonders of video teleconferences and multiple secure telephone calls and all that.  You’ve got to get out there.  You’ve got to get real boot dirt, you’ve got to get honest-to-goodness grime underneath you fingernails and work with the folks in this very large area of responsibility so that they can develop an intense understanding of what we, the United States of America, offer.

Thirty-six countries in our area of responsibility.  We’ve been to 28 or 29 of them.  Some of them, like Japan, we’ve been 10 times.  Others – well, interestingly, we’ve talked to Burma, Myanmar – didn’t ever think we’d get there, but we got there in an attempt to offer humanitarian assistance about a year ago and they essentially turned us down, which was a tragedy.

At any rate, 27 countries we visited, an unmistakable, unrelenting theme in discussions not just mil-to-mil but with senior defense officials, senior government officials, and commercial partners and commercial interests everywhere we go – unmistakable theme – you, the United States of America, are the indispensable partner.  We don’t necessarily want you with us every minute of every day in our country, on our soil, in our water or in the air overhead, but we’d like you nearby.

We want you to be able to come when we need you; we want you to exercise, operate; we want our young men and women to go to school with you, preferably in the United States.  And we like our young men and women to go to school there.  Admiral Walt Doran attended the Indian military academy years ago and he still cites that as one of the great reasons for the success he enjoyed in our particular area of responsibility.

So, partnership, absolutely essential.  Readiness – we’ve got to be out there.  Presence – you can’t do it virtually, you’ve got to be able to deploy, fly, steam, sail, get there however you can, and operate with these folks so that they develop the understand of what we, the United States of America offer them.  And through all of this, the new strategy, we hope, builds an easy – I’m sorry, a simple, but not easy way to ensure peace and stability in the region.

We remain the indispensable partner, the reliable partner, the country upon which all of these folks can depend to respond in times good and bad without a whole lot of commotion to ensure economic stability throughout the region.  Thanks for your attention this evening and I’d be delighted through Walt’s good graces to try and answer any questions that you might have.

MR. SLOCOMBE:  Admiral, I think that’s a terrific overview of what you’re trying to do, and I’m sure it’s stimulated lots of questions and lots of interest.  So let’s start, Admiral.

Q:  Eric McVadon, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.  Would you comment on China and PSI and then maybe the other end of the spectrum, humanitarian assistance operations with China?

ADM. KEATING:  A couple of examples – thanks for the question – a couple of examples to maybe take it in reverse order.  China had a cold snap in, what, January of 2008.  Guangzhou – you may remember the pictures in the paper when there were 400,000 people stranded at the Guangzhou rail yard – a staggering number of people.  We got on the phone, called our Chinese counterparts, if you will, and said, we’d be happy to help.  And they said we are grateful for the offer.

We were loading up two C-17s – and now, this isn’t a ton of – well, it is several tons of stuff actually – (laughter) – out of Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.  Now this is a response to cold-weather disaster, cold-weather challenge.  A C-17 out of Hickam and a C-17 out of Elmendorf – they launched, inside of 48 hours were unloading their gear with a Chinese two-star to say thank you very much for the assistance.  Now, at the same time, China mobilized their army in a manner that is a little unusual for them I think, but very helpful to the people of Guangzhou.

The second example was the earthquake several months thereafter.  Same phone call; same guy on China’s end.  He’d say, well, we’re grateful for the offer, we’re thankful for the help.  Two more C-17s go in and unless you’ve dealt with earthquakes, you don’t necessarily think of what do you need in the case of an earthquake.  Chain saws, water, food, and plastic sheeting.  Plastic sheeting was in short supply and the – plastic sheeting – I need to be careful – plastic sheeting shortage – (laughter) – get in trouble there.

But again, the Chinese were grateful for the assistance.  We landed; we offloaded; we took off.  So in those two cases, offers of humanitarian assistance were readily and warmly received.  The same time we – this is right now – Michèle Flournoy, a successor to Walt, has just returned from a visit to the People’s Republic of China, where we have every indication she has been able to get military-to-military talks back on track.

They were suspended by China in the wake of our Taiwan arms sales announcement in October 2008.  We think they’re back on track.  There’s a schedule for mil-to-mil dialogue that she has arranged with her Chinese colleague and we hope that it will lead to an increase in the dialogue and an improvement in the relationship between Pacific Command and our counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army, navy and air force, writ somewhat narrowly, and increased understanding and cooperation on a much larger scale.  So that’s all I’m going to answer for your short question, and I hope I got to it.  We’ve provided humanitarian assistance as disaster relief, and we’re hoping for more fruitful relations with Chinese military in the near future.

Proliferation Security Initiative.  We are prepared, when directed, to respond to guidance from the secretary and the president in enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions, and this is a subset of PSI, if I’m understanding your question.  So as you are aware, PSI is a policy signed to by 90-plus some countries in the world.  We don’t have direct dialogue with the People’s Liberation Army on this topic.  There are some conversations ongoing at the State Department level, including China with respect to North Korea, and beyond that, I’m better off not going into operational detail.  Thanks for the question.  Yes ma’am.  I’m sorry –

MR. SLOCOMBE:  You can handle, this, I think, honestly.


Q:  Admiral, Nadia Tsao with the Liberty Time Taiwan.  During you tenure I think you have been trying to help Taiwan and China to dialogue or build confidence – military, you know, confidence-building measure. I don’t know, have you been able to accomplish anything?  Do you see the recent reduction of tension being permanent or, you know, there’s still factors that both sides have to consider about things?

ADM. KEATING:  We certainly hope that the reduction intention is permanent.  It is our profound hope, as I suspect so, too, for PRC and for Taiwan.  We have contributed some instructors for Taiwan’s annual exercise.  As you may know, we send some well-qualified military instructors.  The fact that tension has been defused, if not eliminated across the straight, is very encouraging.

The steps taken by PRC and Taiwan, while some of them are a little kind of pedestrian in a way – sending exotic animals, pandas, to zoos; increased commercial traffic, making it easier to send mail back and forth across the straight – each of these taken in and of itself not a watershed decision, but all contributing to a sense of cooperation and collaboration that we find very encouraging across the straight.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Admiral, Betty Lin of the World Journal.

ADM. KEATING:  Hi, Betty.

Q:  Hi.  Not too long ago, a U.S.S. McCain’s towed array was hit by a Chinese sub and can you tell us about what kind of sub it was, and also, can you comment on the PACOM’s ASW capabilities against conventional subs especially with AIB capabilities?  Thank you.

ADM. KEATING:  Is that all you want to know?  (Laughter.)  Um, let me take the McCain piece first.  John McCain, operating in international water the way we operate, our Navy operates around the world all the time – it had a towed array out, and it was damaged.  The investigation’s ongoing; I don’t know precisely why the towed array was damaged.  So we’ll find out perhaps in time.

As for the United States Pacific Command’s ASW policy, we would – I’ve got to keep remembering that the tapes are rolling – (laughter) – we would like to have more than less submarines in the Pacific Command area of responsibility.  Now the United States Navy and Department of Defense, they’ve got to make decisions as to how they apportion those assets.

We’ve got – I think it’s a 60/40 split, Pacific Command and everybody else right now – the Admiral is shaking his head; an intel Admiral shaking his head is encouraging.  (Laughter.)  We regard freedom of access to the maritime domain is absolutely essential to everything we want to get done, all of us want to get done in the Pacific Command AOR.

So guaranteeing right of free passage to anybody that wants to – in accordance with international law – put containers on ships and move them, we would support.  Those who would develop submarine technologies and capabilities that might be used against, to deny maritime access, we would view with disfavor.

So we want to be sure that we can provide adequate defense if we need to in the terms of our nuclear submarine force, the exercises we do with out friends and allies in the AOR.  There are 250-some submarines in our area of responsibility.  That’s a pretty good number of subs – of course not all of them ours, not very many of them ours, but a good number.

So we continued to pursue ASW technology, we want to make sure that countries understand what, the United States of America in the form of the United States Pacific Command can offer them in terms of defense and right of access to the maritime domain.  And countries who develop technologies that would run counter to that policy, we’re going to work to overcome those developments.  Thanks.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  My name is Sunjin Choi, Institute for Defense Analyses.  Admiral, thank you so much for your succinct remark.  My questions regard your remark on partnership and readiness.  You mentioned PACOM conduct bilateral, multilateral exercise per year with the regional partners.  You have 36 AOR member state that covers 3.9 billion populations.  My question is A, do you have effective measures or the metrics to measure effectively bilateral, multilateral programs, and B, do we have any joint lessons learned process to measure those programs in past?  Thank you.

ADM. KEATING:  That’s a great question.  Two great questions.  The first one, very tough.  Metrics – in a way you end up trying to argue the negative.  If we’re not there, if we don’t exercise on bilateral basis, or more importantly a multilateral basis – if we don’t, how do you know what might happen and might not happen?

I don’t mean to be cute with semantics here, but we work hard to make sure that we are an invited guest everywhere we go in the area of responsibility.  It is not just my luxury, pleasure, but we haven’t been turned down yet – except in Myanmar, Burma.  We flew there to offer humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  We had 36-some helicopters in Thailand and four ships – a part of a coalition effort in the Bay of Bengal.  We were able to fly 180 C-130 hops into and out of Rangoon, but we could have done so much more.  So that’s the one example I can think of where we were told no thanks.

In every other – I’ll think – in every other situation, countries – go back to where I was a little while ago – we remain the indispensable partner.  Now, we don’t want to say this with a lot of chutzpah, we want to be humble about this; we want to be invited.  To the best of my knowledge, we recall we have always – an invitation tendered is an invitation received – and that works both ways.  The second part of your question was –

Q:  (Off microphone.)

ADM. KEATING:  Oh, yeah.  Thank you.  Joint lessons learned, you bet.

Well, here’s an interesting – again, semantics.  Lessons observed – (laughter) – aren’t necessarily lessons learned.  So when we do have these exercises and we have cultural and language opportunities, shall we say, we want to try to skinny down to a couple of real big hitting items that countries and young men and young women and old men and old women can understand, can embrace, and can fix if necessary or pursuer if desirable.

So lessons learned is a great big-ticket item in the Pacific Command.  Lessons observed: volumes and volumes – all of us have seen them on the shelves.  Well, we’re interested – we’re not persuaded by those.  We’re interested and persuaded by lessons learned.  And we’re working very hard with all the nations with whom we engage to make them concrete, to make them simple, and make them fixable in the out-years. Yes, sir?

Q:  Thank you sir, I am John from the Radio Free Asia.  I would like to ask a question on North Korea.  Now, U.S. government is keeping watch on several North Korean vessels right now, which are possibly carrying the weapon.  So are you keeping watch on the North Korean vessel continuously until when, and then do you have any sense of it?  And then secondly, North Korea’s ICBM, so do we have any expectation of when the North Korea launch the ICBM and to      what you’re ready for about it?  Thank you.

ADM. KEATING:  Sure.  (Laughter.)  Aren’t we supposed to finish at six?  (Laughter.)  Please – this is a very serious situation.  North Korea’s activities are very disturbing and unsettling to all of us.  Witness the United Nations Security Council resolution.  As far as a shipment of proscribed cargo, I can’t comment on operational matters like that or intelligence matters.  Our president has said he is satisfied that the Pacific Command, the military of the United States is well prepared to execute whatever direction he gives us, and you can read whatever or not you choose into that, but that’s where I have to leave it.

As far as Taepodongs launched from North Korea, the recent launch following, by a couple of years, the July of 2006 launch – the secretary of defense just said a couple of weeks ago – I think he said it very well – we’re prepared to protect Americans and American property and American citizens and American territories.  We don’t want to tip our hand too much and indicate specific areas of readiness, or operational patterns, but we’re prepared to execute in whatever direction the president or secretary give us with regard to Taepodong-2s as well.  Yes, sir.  Thomas, how are you?  Good.

THOM SHANKER:  Thom Shanker from the New York Times.  Thank you for your time today and for sharing your wisdom with us.  I wanted to get your assessment of the Joint Special Operations Taskforce operating in the Philippines.  What have been the positive takeaways, and, given the stress on soft forces by the surge that dare not call its name in Afghanistan, do you think those forces should be sustained in the Philippines – even grow – or is it time for them to go home and let the Filipinos take over?  Thank you.

ADM. KEATING:  Yeah.  Thanks, Thom, for the question.  JSOTF-P – great military acronym – Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines.  We were directed – we, Pacific Command – to provide forces in conjunction with the United States Special Operations Command to help the armed forces in the Philippines in their struggle against violent extremism, principally in the southern reaches of the Philippine country – Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiya in particular.

We’ve been there for about six years now, in some number.  We’ve got, I’ll just say, several hundred operators there right now, Thom, as you probably know.  They’ve been there for a while.  A critical mission; helping significantly the armed forces of the Philippines, in our view, go back to the metrics question – incidents of violence.  While there are still kidnappings, we’re not entirely sure that there are terrorists.  A little bit of a blurry line in some areas of the Philippines between criminal activity and terrorist activity.

I was able to go with Ambassador Kristie Kenney, who is a real dynamo and a great, great ambassador for our country, on a trip to visit our JSOTF-P personnel about a year ago. We flew down, helicoptered down, drove over.  It wasn’t Interstate 95 – for better or for worse, it wasn’t any Interstate 95.  A little bit bumpy in about a four or five-car convoy – escorted and followed by armed forces of the Philippine marines and soldiers.

So we take this trip into true Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness” Philippine jungle.  And as we leave visible elements of civilization – electrical power wires, TV antennas – and get into a little bit less opulent villages and isolated developments.  Young kids – two, three, four, five years old are running out, waving and applauding and jumping up and down and hollering in their in their native tongue what I’m told is, it’s good to see you.  This kind of support – with their mommas and dads back nodding approvingly – I saw this with my own eyes.  And I thought, this is wonderful; this is terrific.

Ambassador Kenney said, two years ago, mom and dad would have pulled the kids back, and they would have stayed well away from the street.  And if there had been any demonstration, it would have been unfavorable.  So I saw, with my own eyes, enthusiastic support from the citizens who had been previously terrorized by violent extremists.  I believe we have made significant progress.  It’s a tough metric – back to her question.  We’ve got the guys that we have there now, Thom.  We’re going to keep them there for the foreseeable future.

It’s a situation we analyze constantly with the Department of Defense, Department of State and the National Security Council.  We’re there for the foreseeable future and I think that the benefits we gain in spite of significant tension on Special Operations forces, are important enough that we maintain our posture and presence in the Southern Philippines.  Sir?

MIKE HARWOOD:  Air Vice-Marshal Mike Harwood from the U.K.  Glenn Talpey (sp) sends you his love, by the way, just so you know.  I want to know, sir, how you personally learn?  Do you read a lot?  If so, what do you read?  Do you have smart guys who brief you all the time?  Or do you just go and do presence yourself, and see if with your own eyes?  How do you learn?

ADM. KEATING:  I have the great luxury and privilege of being surrounded by smart, brilliant guys and girls, Mike.  I mean, I’ve got – this is going to be syrupy – I’ve got the best job in the world.  Think about it.  I get to live in Hawaii with my wife, fabulous house, I got a – I got.  Whew, Mrs. Jazwinski would be very disappointed in me; third-grade English.  I enjoy – (laughter) – a nice airplane out here that rarely takes off without me being on it – (laughter) – and generally goes where we’d like it to go.  So we have astounding support – personnel, administrative, logistics, equipment – and pretty good funding; we could use a little more, but we’ve got pretty good funding.  (Laughter.)

I learn by listening.  Go back to him, go back to him, Oliver, Magnus, Olman, many in the room.  Some names I don’t recognize, but faces I do.  I try and keep my mouth closed and my ears open.  My wife would not necessarily agree that that’s what I do all the time.  (Laughter.)  It’s the best job in the world.  The staff is brilliant.  We do such important work, and I think, consequential work, with our embassies.  I don’t spend a whole lot of time hanging around with guys in uniform when we visit these 28, 29 – I talk to Angus Houston, I talk to John.  I talk to your guys and our guys.

But we spend more time in our embassies.  We’re spending more time as we can with commercial partners – commercial interests.  We spent a full day in India not in the ministry of defense or ministry of foreign affairs, but at lunches and gatherings arranged by folks in the commercial sector.  So there’s a pretty good exchange of ideas on those terms, on those issues.  So I try and listen more, talk less.  And with the staff, generally, what the staff recommends is almost always spot-on.  And on those rare occasions when I just need to give it little tiny rudder orders because of the experience I got studying at the feet of masters, it’s been my great privilege.  Thanks for the question.  Yes sir.

CHRIS CASTELLI:  Chris Castelli with Inside the Pentagon.  As the Defense Department does its Quadrennial Defense Review, what priorities are you advocating for?

ADM. KEATING:  Our Quadrennial Defense Review – we were just in town two weeks ago talking about this.  It is a singularly important effort, as many of you know.  I’m pleased to report that combatant commanders have a larger say-so than my experience in the past in the formulation of this Quadrennial Defense Review.  It’s a huge challenge for the department, as you would anticipate, with a space review, a nuclear posture review ongoing and several others – not to mention annual budget challenges – opportunities, if you want.

So we’re more active in the formulation of the review.  We submit an integrated priority list – I mean this will be mind-numbing for a lot of you, but an IPL – and we have ten items on our integrated priority list.  These are issues where we would prefer a little more funding, a little more emphasis, a little more output from the Department of Defense on those priority issues of ours.  And we submit them.  Of our 10 – I can’t go into them; they’re classified – all of them – 10 for 10 – are being addressed in the Quadrennial Defense Review.  We think that is beneficial for us.

Now you might say, well, what are those 10 issues?  Again, I can’t go into them.  But if you were to think of areas where we might like – because of the size of the AOR, because of the various countries with whom we’re exercising – that we might like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for example – everybody wants more of those – it’s being addressed in the Quadrennial Defense Review.

So we’re very happy with the role the combatant commanders have, we have an active voice in the formulation of the QDR.  It is a singularly important document for us and we’re cautiously optimistic that it will be not just a heavy tome that goes across the street to Congress, but it’ll actually have an impact with Congress and that the American people will be persuaded by the analysis that goes into the QDR.  I’m optimistic.  Robert?

Q:  Admiral, great pleasure to see you again.  Question – I’ll just use the framework of our strategic relationship with Japan and Japan looking into the future – two parts of this.  First off, an initiative – the defense policy realignment initiative – and another acronym – TAR DPRI – a series of 19 different plans that basically restructured and somewhat dispersed our forces further in the Pacific, although it did move some Army command to the big islands.

Number one, how do you see that change in our lay-down posture and how that affects our relationship with Japan?  There’s A.  And the B is, as a subset of that, Guam.  Guam is a little bit further east and a lot further south, and it’s going to be a challenging place not only to train Marines, but also to move them around.  So could you talk about both of those?

ADM. KEATING:  Sure.  It’s a great question, and one in which we’re spending a not-insignificant amount of time and effort.  The Defense Policy Review Initiative, and a subset of that, the AIP – Agreed Implementation Plan.  As you very accurately state, Bob, the DPRI isn’t just Guam.  There are a number – 18 other subsets of DPRI – all of which are in some process of execution now.  We’re going to take a Navy Air Wing out of Atsugi, move them down to Iwakuni – the Japanese have built an entirely new runway down there at Iwakuni; you may have seen it before.

We’re shuffling around some Army flags and some billets – and again, I don’t mean to sound trivial, it’s very important to us and to the Japanese.  We’re combining with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and our Air Force in Japan to have a combined operation center, which will be very important for us, and so on and so on all through those 18 other parts of the DPRI.  On track, generally well-funded and very beneficial to us across the board – us at Pacific Command, and, we believe, to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

The area, it’s moth-like to the flame.  They go, yeah, well what about Guam?  The previous administration, President Bush, the current administration, President Obama, the secretaries of state and secretary of defense from both administrations have reaffirmed our national commitment to get AIP done.  Got it; loud and clear.  It’s going to take some money.  It’s going to take some time.

There is an understanding that just working inside the fence line at Guam won’t get a defense line inside.  The Department of Defense properties won’t just get it done; there have to be improvements in the infrastructure of Guam.  Those of us who’ve had the pleasure of going to Guam understand.  It’s a country of, I think, 175,000 people.  Well we’re going to move another 15,000 to 18,000 Marines and independents down there.  That’s a 10 percent growth almost overnight.

You can’t do that anywhere in America without some infrastructure considerations and improvement.  That means money and that takes time and there are labor costs.  You have to go back to the Marine Corps who will move 8,000 of their guys and girls down there.  There are training issues attendant to the transfer.  The Marines in Okinawa – I’m preaching to the choir – don’t get all the training they need to get done right now.  We have to move some of them around.  So AIP is not without challenges.

The previous and current administration have expressed their clear commitment to get it done.  There is a new group working inside the Pentagon that is at a little more senior-level to those who were working very hard to get this done in the years past.  We at Pacific Command are doing all that we can to support the Department of Defense and, increasingly, an interagency look at the opportunities intended to moving Marines out of Okinawa to Guam.

Now, you raise a point where Guam’s a little bit off the beaten path.  Yes and no.  It’s kind of wide open spaces down there.  And once we get through some of the environmental impact assessments, I think we’ll find that – I’ve deployed a bunch, as Walt said, have been on a carrier once or twice; I’ve even flown a whole lot in that part of the southern Pacific.  Perhaps you’ve been down there as well.  Great training opportunities.

It’s going to take a little while to get there.  We have the flag of the United States of America flying over Guam.  We can come in and out of Anderson Air Force base, out of Agana, and as we develop it, when we have more forces down there, it’ll be a training center for us.  And we can move folks.  Granted, they’re going to have to get on a ship or an airplane to get where they’re going.  We’ve got a few of those – ships and airplanes – and we can do it without having to ask the host-country permission because it’s our country.

I think it’s a strategic imperative for us to execute AIP, and I believe, in time, we will find the money and get the infrastructure upgraded, improved, to the point where we’ll be happy once we’re down there.  And our Marine Corps has said, we’re going to want every Marine who goes there to say, when I’m done with my tour, I don’t want to leave.  And guys who are outside Guam go, I want to go to Guam because the quality of life, the housing, the infrastructure is the best in the world.  We’re hopeful.  Yes, sir.

MILES POMPER:  Hi, Miles Pomper from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.  Thanks for coming, Admiral.  I have a question – you mentioned the nuclear posture review a little bit earlier.  And I was curious about how you see that playing out in your area of responsibility, particularly given the president’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons.  And, particularly the question of dealing with Japan and the question of seat-launch cruise missiles and how you see that playing out over the coming years and carrying out this vision.

ADM. KEATING:  This is my personal opinion – and you might say, well, what’s the difference between your personal and professional?  There really isn’t any.  (Laughter.)  This is a great big deal for us, the United States, to review our nuclear posture.  As I move around the AOR – I mentioned we’ve been to 27 or 28 countries out there – sooner or later, many of the folks with whom we have discussions will get around to asking, is your nuclear deterrent umbrella going to continue to extend over fill-in-the-blank country?

So our capabilities in this area are not taken for granted all throughout our air responsibility.  Everywhere I go, sooner or later, not just in mil-to-mil, the conversation comes up and I say, it’s not mine to determine policy, but it is my hope that our nuclear deterrent umbrella will continue to be effective.  And that probably means it will continue to extend wherever in the world I happen to be.

The nuclear posture review will be aggressive.  Our president has made clear certain aspects that he hopes to be addressed in the nuclear posture review, and I’m sure the guys doing it understand the president’s guidance.  As far as the second part about Japan, what was the second part?

Q:  (Off microphone.)

ADM. KEATING:  I’m not aware of specific Japanese interest in that particular system that you describe.  I am aware, as I say of Japanese interest in the nuclear umbrella continuing to extend over to Japan.  Yes, ma’am.

REBEKAH GORDON:  Hi, sir.  Rebekah Gordon with Inside the Navy.  Just as a follow-on to the question earlier about submarine as being critical to maintaining freedom of the seas, what about surface vessels?  And would you like to see more of them –


MS. GORDON:  (Chuckles) – in PACOM?  Okay.  But, also, as part of that, not just more, but I’m curious to know what types or what capabilities in particular would you be looking for?

ADM. KEATING:  It wasn’t going to be a simple yes or no answer was it?  Well let me go back to one of the elements of our strategy – presence.  Actually, all of them.  I can make a case – we have made the case with CNO Gary Roughead, a good and great friend.

Quantity has a quality all its own.  And for us, in the broad reaches of the Pacific, it is very helpful to have a larger number of service assets that we can deploy.  And remember what our partners say, we like you to hang around for a while but it doesn’t bother us if you leave.  Sometimes they don’t know if we’re two miles, twenty miles or two hundred miles over the horizon.  They just trust that we’re not within eyesight nearby.  There are advantages to that with several countries in particular.

So it is to the Pacific Command’s benefit to have more than less ships.  The more capable they are, the better, because we will ask much of the crews on those ships as we hope to engage, demonstrate readiness and enhance partnership.  the higher end technical capabilities those ships have, the easier it is for us to assure the secretary of defense we’re able to execute whatever operations he tells us to execute – whether it’s United Nations Security Council resolution, whether it’s exercises like Malabar, or whether it’s a no-kidding, high-end – God forbid – but like an Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom type of kinetic military operation.

Lots of ships are better than less ships.  Higher end capabilities are better than lower end capabilities.  There is, of course, the issue of affordability. The DDG-51 is a wonderful platform, and if that’s how the Navy chooses to go, we would be happy with that.  Their decision to make, we just want our fair share of them when the decision’s done.  A little more than our fair share.  (Laughter.)  Thanks, Rebekah.

MR. SLOCOMBE:  Before you take this question, Admiral Keating has been very generous with his time.  I think we should take just this question and just one more to finish up one time.  One of the things one learns in the Pentagon is meetings are supposed to start and stop on time.

Q:  Sir, I hope this question doesn’t disappoint you.  Guy Haywood from the British Embassy also.

ADM. KEATING:  Hello, Guy.

Q:  Sir, thank you.  We traditionally think of warm places when we think of your AOR.  You’ve outlined at the beginning of your strategy and the last lady just made it on presence – as you’re looking out 20 years, to the north of your AOR is the Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea.  I’m thinking presence, and I’m not talking submarines.  As you’ve looked out 20 years and the prospect of ice-free summers, defending U.S. endeavors off the coastline and you provide forces to the U.S. Arctic coastline, how much does the Arctic feature into your thinking in your formulation strategy?

ADM. KEATING:  You know, Guy, it’s a terrific question.  The shortest answer is the Arctic didn’t figure much, but we didn’t ignore it.  There are all manner of interesting aspects to the global warming if that’s what’s really happening – oh man – as there is unmistakable evidence of increased access to the Northwest Passage and the North Passage.

So if you come up here what military command is responsible?  Is it Northern Command?  I could have made a pretty compelling case two-and-a-half, three years ago.  Is it Pacific Command?  You bet.  Is it European Command?  Or is it – and what about Canada?  Is it their water?  How do we work through the policy challenges attendant to military operations up here as is certain will be more than less involved in the out years in operations or at least guaranteeing freedom of access in the maritime domain.

So it is an issue that we are studying more closely – you know the classic staff response, well, we’ll take that for action.  Well, we have it for action.  We’re working on it with Northern Command, with European Command, through the joint staff and the office of the secretary of defense for policy.  It’s complicated, it’s challenging, it’s important.  We talked about the trade – the $1 trillion of trade that our countries do with the United States.  The decrease in transit time is startling between the far Eastern countries and the U.K. and our NATO allies in Europe.

Well, everybody in Europe can cut four or five steaming days off if the Northwest Passage is open.  So an issue of significant strategic and economic importance, we’re working it in concert with, not in contrast to Northern Command, European Command, our friends and allies in the Department of State.

MR. SLOCOMBE:  And on that note, complicated, challenging and important, it is 18:30; you are dismissed.

ADM. KEATING:  Thank you, sir.  Thanks, Walt.

Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.

Back to Admiral Timothy Keating Event Page

Pakistan’s Summer of Chaos

As the summer solstice draws near, it seems as if all the evil spirits are coming out to haunt the body politic of Pakistan. The country faces an escalation in hostilities on many fronts. And unlike in the past, when sweet deals and concessions could woo militants and protesters into silence, this time no amount of amulets will drive them away.


On the battlefield, the portents exist for a major new clash between the Army and the country’s homegrown militants. There are reports of forthcoming military action against fighters in South Waziristan, on top of the Army’s ongoing assault against the Taliban in Swat and Malakand. The fighting in Swat has displaced nearly 3 million people in just over a month — a number likely to swell as the Army moves into Waziristan. One might expect protests against the government and even perhaps the military to erupt if these internally displaced persons (IDPs) cannot swiftly and safely return home.

Pakistan indeed finds itself in quite a mess, and cleaning it up requires some review of how exactly the country became so disheveled. Before the assault on Swat began last month, the Army had been confined to its bases, apparently having rousted (but not routed) the Taliban. With the local and federal governments absent from the region in name and in services, the militants crept back and established a bloody regime. Violence escalated, and the Army was reticent to step in absent a long-term plan for controlling the area. So, the government agreed to a peace deal with Taliban-sympathizers. The truce was intended to subdue the militants, but instead, it gave them more time to organize.

Rather than melting away, the Taliban began snatching up territory closer and closer to the Pakistani heartland, and outrage among locals and the larger Pakistani population pushed the administration and the Army to react. Their tactic of choice was a full-fledged assault. The Army now has close to 150,000 troops in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Swat, and Malakand. In Swat alone, there are at least two full divisions from the eastern frontier and an additional four brigades cobbled together from divisions usually stationed near the Indian border. In addition, there is a full brigade of commandos in the Peochar Valley, and nine wings of the Frontier Corps. The total troop commitment in Swat is about 52,000. The military is taking losses daily. The militants, meanwhile, have taken the battle to the center of Pakistan, attacking offices of the Inter-Services Intelligence in Lahore in May and other softer targets, such as the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar last week.

Pakistan needs to regain territory and reestablish the writ of the provincial and federal governments in Swat and Malakand. The bad news is that taking territory, as the military is doing now, is not enough. There is no effective civil or judicial system in place to speedily see to the needs of the population, nor is there an effective local police force to protect civilians from Taliban reprisals. We are still waiting to see any semblance of a government plan for dealing with the IDPs’ return home. The Army is neither trained nor equipped for that task and cannot be expected to hold the areas that it clears. Locals told U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to Pakistan, that the civilian leadership was still missing in action when he arrived to assess the situation in IDP camps. Little has really changed.

Now, the Army may be preparing for action in the Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan areas into South Waziristan, with the goal of flushing out or even eliminating Baitullah Mehsud and his fellow leaders of the Pakistani Taliban. In its effort, the Army may well resort to its old tactic of leveraging tribal rivalries. The target of their affections this time might be Mullah Nazir of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe — traditional enemies of the Mehsuds. If so, it’s a dangerous strategy. If the situation devolves into tribal war, Pakistan risks losing the support of those Mehsuds that may not yet be fully aligned with Baitullah. And the Taliban leadership might simply melt into the countryside as the Army battles in populated areas.

Which brings us back to Pakistan’s 3 million displaced, only 200,000 of whom have been accommodated in official camps. The rest are fending for themselves and are anxious to return to their homes and orchards. Before they can do so, however, those areas must be safe and secure — and there remains only a narrow window for the government to prepare for rehabilitation and reconstruction before winter. With the exception of the United States, very few countries have come forward to assist in this effort. The Muslim world has been notably silent, as have the Europeans. A number of potential donors had already pledged more than $5 billion to help Pakistan’s economy at the Tokyo meeting this spring, but donor fatigue might be setting in now.

Aside from foreshadowing future turmoil, the Swat operation and the flood of IDPs indicate a lack of strategic planning on the part of Pakistan. A coherent strategy was nowhere to be found in both cases, nor was there any meeting of the minds between civilian and military thinkers and between federal and local officials on how to tackle the militants.

Another seemingly obvious but important lesson is that military attacks address only the symptoms of discontent, while doing little to tackle the root causes of militancy. No steps have been taken by the government as yet to integrate FATA into Pakistan’s economy and polity, to regularize the region’s legal system, or to allow Pakistan’s political parties to operate inside FATA’s boundaries. Nor have any plans been made to employ FATA’s bulging youth population, an estimated 300,000 potential Taliban recruits. The government could rapidly create employment by launching heavy infrastructure projects such as east-west roads linking FATA to Pakistan, construction of embankments, small dams, and tube wells.

Washington is doing its best to provide Pakistan the wherewithal to tackle these issues. Now it’s time for Pakistan to step up and formulate its implementation plans, before it loses the trust of its people and the summer boils over into political chaos.

Shuja Nawaz is director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council. This essay was previously published at

Obama Should Reach Out to Muslim Youth

As President Barack Obama prepares to address the Muslim World from Cairo on Thursday this week, he would do well not to dwell on the past but to look to the future. His speech should be the first salvo in a battle to meet the expectations of a world dominated by youth. He should not revive memories of past conflicts.

He needs to keep certain facts in mind, many of them intuitively clear to him no doubt from his own exposure to parts of the Muslim World and to his early personal friendships with young Muslims.

First, Muslims, who comprise between one-fifth and one-quarter of the world’s population, are a diverse lot. Speaking politically or socially of the “Muslim World” as a bloc would be a mistake, as much as speaking of left-handed persons in the world as a bloc. Second, their population is rising rapidly, close to 2 per cent a year worldwide. In the last century the world’s Muslim population rose from 150 million to over 1.2 billion.

Most important, President Obama will be addressing a population with a huge “youth bulge”: In the Middle East, for example, 60 per cent of the population is below 25 years. Research indicates that some 60 of the 67 countries with a youth bulge are embroiled in internal conflicts today. In 62 countries of the world, two-thirds of the population is below 30. Countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are included in this group. Over half of the population of Iran is below 30 years.

Muslim youth were excited by Obama’s election and it is this group that he should address when he speaks from Cairo on June 4, for they, not the aging autocrats or obscurantist clerics, will control the future of the Muslim World. And they are increasingly connected with the world at large through the internet, radio, and television.

What is the message they wish to hear?

  • The US will match its deeds to its words. It will no longer talk of democracy while supporting and propping up autocrats in the Muslim World;
  • It will help open up societies, using moral suasion, new technologies, and by aligning itself with the forces of moderation and progress;
  • It will help create jobs by investing in the infrastructure of the Muslim World, while laying the foundation for the future with aid for education rather than military hardware; and
  • It understands the angst and the anger of the youth of the Muslim World and supports them in their quest to stay true to their Muslim roots while reaching for the fruits of democracy and progress that youth around the globe seek.

If President Obama connects with Muslim youth this week he will be investing in the future by drawing them away from the blandishments of the radical Mullahs. If he bends his message to maintaining ties with the antiquated feudal and dynastic leaders of the Muslim World, the opportunity will be lost to build a better world for all of us.

Shuja Nawaz is director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council.  This essay originally appeared in the Huffington Post as “Obama Needs to Look to the Future.” 

Obama Needs to Look to the Future

As President Barack Obama prepares to address the Muslim World from Cairo on Thursday this week, he would do well not to dwell on the past but to look to the future. His speech should be the first salvo in a battle to meet the expectations of a world dominated by youth. He should not revive memories of past conflicts. He needs to keep certain facts in mind, many of them intuitively clear to him no doubt from his own exposure to parts of the Muslim World and to his early personal friendships with young Muslims.

First, Muslims, who comprise between one-fifth and one-quarter of the world’s population, are a diverse lot. Speaking politically or socially of the “Muslim World” as a bloc would be a mistake, as much as speaking of left-handed persons in the world as a bloc. Second, their population is rising rapidly, close to 2 per cent a year worldwide. In the last century the world’s Muslim population rose from 150 million to over 1.2 billion.

Most important, President Obama will be addressing a population with a huge “youth bulge”: In the Middle East, for example, 60 per cent of the population is below 25 years. Research indicates that some 60 of the 67 countries with a youth bulge are embroiled in internal conflicts today. In 62 countries of the world, two-thirds of the population is below 30. Countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are included in this group. Over half of the population of Iran is below 30 years.

Muslim youth were excited by Obama’s election and it is this group that he should address when he speaks from Cairo on June 4, for they, not the aging autocrats or obscurantist clerics, will control the future of the Muslim World. And they are increasingly connected with the world at large through the internet, radio, and television.

What is the message they wish to hear?

  • The US will match its deeds to its words. It will no longer talk of democracy while supporting and propping up autocrats in the Muslim World;
  • It will help open up societies, using moral suasion, new technologies, and by aligning itself with the forces of moderation and progress;
  • It will help create jobs by investing in the infrastructure of the Muslim World, while laying the foundation for the future with aid for education rather than military hardware; and
  • It understands the angst and the anger of the youth of the Muslim World and supports them in their quest to stay true to their Muslim roots while reaching for the fruits of democracy and progress that youth around the globe seek.

If President Obama connects with Muslim youth this week he will be investing in the future by drawing them away from the blandishments of the radical Mullahs. If he bends his message to maintaining ties with the antiquated feudal and dynastic leaders of the Muslim World, the opportunity will be lost to build a better world for all of us.

This also appeared on The Huffingotn Post and