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SPEECH | Feb. 27, 2017

Australian Chief of Air Force Symposium

(As Delivered)


Forming Coalitions across the Spectrum of Capability and Wealth


Maj. Gen. Clinton E. Crosier, U.S. Strategic Command director of plans and policy: Thank you Air Commodore Green.


Good morning everyone, and thank you to our host, Air Marshal Davies, for convening us today. It’s an honor to be here addressing such a well-represented audience.


As we've already heard this morning, the theme of this symposium is “Evolving Joint Airpower” and as we stand at the crossroads of an ever more complex and ever evolving security environment, I think we all agree that it's critical that joint airpower evolves with it. 


So, it's not that airpower must evolve, but how it must evolve that's the key question for all of us here in the room ‒ and we'll explore that.


But, I have also been asked to speak this morning about “Forming Coalitions across the Spectrum of Capability and Wealth.” I find this topic very fitting for the diverse, international audience gathered today and very fitting for my role at United States Strategic Command as the director of plans, policy, and international engagement.


I’m here on behalf of Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, a distinguished Air Force officer and one of our nation’s preeminent military leaders.  United States Strategic Command is a joint combatant command operating daily across all domains.  In Air Vice Marshal McDonald’s words, “USSTRATCOM operates in the strategic depths every day.” 


Since becoming commander of U.S. Strategic Command, he (Hyten) has reinforced the message, “Peace is our Profession.”  To us, that means preventing conflict and advancing our shared interest of security and stability in the global commons, across each and every one of our STRATCOM missions ‒ from strategic deterrence, to space, and missile defense, and cyber operations to joint electronic warfare, representing as the topic I introduced full spectrum capability and joint and coalition operations.


As you take a look at these U.S. Strategic Command missions, many of which also belong to Air Forces around the globe and many of the leaders here in the room, I'll offer to you my first key assessment, and that is that the critical piece of evolving joint airpower is to ensure we are thinking far more broadly than just the air piece.  Mr. Behn talked a few minutes ago about airpower of the future being more about systems than platforms, and I fully agree.


Today’s security environment requires integration on a global scale, more so than at any time in history, because our world operates on a more global scale than at any time in our history.


Our nations, and our forces, must be prepared to deal with complex, multidomain challenges. The future operating environment will be increasingly complex with rapid production of high volumes of data and increasingly contested lines of communications.  In future conflict, it will be the nation who can best control the information environment that will win.


If you think about it, even from the very first conflict, information has always been the key.  The army that could see the enemy before the enemy could see the army had the advantage.  The army that could respond to the enemy before the enemy could respond had the advantage. So, from the very beginning it has always been about information.  In the very first wars, the only sensors we had were our eyeballs, and the history of warfare ever since has been about trying to extend the range of our eyeballs and eardrums whether “Over the Horizon” radars or signal intelligence from space.  The key is improving the range effectiveness and integration of those sensors.


As I understand it − that is exactly what the Australian Air Force’s Plan Jericho is designed to do.  To fully integrate combat forces across domains to harness air, space and cyber effects in the information age, with the speed and precision that security environment demands today − I applaud those efforts. 


So, the Air Force that can fuse air, space, cyberspace and the entire electromagnetic spectrum, while being the fastest and most effective, is the Air Force that wins. 


In addition to being an Air Force officer, I come from a joint combatant command. I truly appreciate the fact that the Australian Air Force's strategy document identifies the improvement of joint warfighting capability as one of its top vectors for the Australian Air Force. 


Because in order to truly evolve joint airpower, that airpower must be fully and seamlessly integrated with land power and maritime power in synchronized time, space, and purpose to bring truly revolutionary combat power to the battlefield. 


The joint force that is the fastest and most effective is the joint force that wins. And, as airmen, we all can and should drive that evolution.


That brings me to my second key assessment, that the challenges of the future also require deliberate and sustained partnerships that span the spectrum, to include large and small countries; diverse militaries and those with more specialized or unique capabilities; large and small budgets because there can and should be a role for each.


In terms of building coalitions across the full spectrum, we've built an entire campaign around that concept at U.S. Strategic Command.  We call that the deterrence and assurance campaign and today we have more than 30 representatives from partner nations imbedded across each and every one of our missions.  We continually seek new partnerships and new areas of cooperation.

I should note that the Australian Strategic Plan also includes a focus on international engagement.


In fact, Gen. John Hyten was in Canberra [Australia] just last month to participate in bilateral meetings hosted by Vice Adm. Griggs, Australian vice chief of defense force. The meetings focused on partnership opportunities in the region. These engagements are important for continued mutual understanding and interoperability. Gen. John Hyten and Vice Adm. Griggs discussed shared goals and challenges of global integration across all domains.  I am proud to report that the cooperation and partnership with the U.S. military and the Australian military has never been stronger.


But to build strong coalitions and lasting partnerships, coalition building must be a deliberate practice.


Just as it takes deliberate planning to fully integrate across domains and across the joint force − of course neither happens accidentally − it also takes deliberate planning to develop the right kinds of coalitions too.


Through our mutual values and interests and understanding the common threats and challenges that face us, we must deliberately assess the strengths and weaknesses of each partner.  We identify the opportunities for both additive and niche capabilities and jointly charter a path for integration and load sharing.


Crucially important, we must commit the time, energy and effort necessary to sustain those partnerships − much like this forum is doing today.


That brings me to my third key assessment that both dominating the information environment and building coalitions must be done within the concept of standards and norms. 


As a global command, U.S. Strategic Command operates in domains from under the sea with our ballistic missile submarines to the farthest reaches of outer space with our satellite constellations in geosynchronous orbit, in every domain in between and so do many of you.


Whether air, sea, space or cyberspace, we all share a vast global commons in which we have mutual interests and mutual responsibilities. In all domains, we are stronger when we operate together under a common set of rules and norms. U.S. Strategic Command, in particular the U.S. military in general, has worked to develop key partnerships and operate as a coalition. 


For more than a decade through our continuous bomber presence program, the U.S. has operated long-range conventional bombers in the Pacific and integrates those capabilities with our key partners. This includes fighter escorts, logistics and tanker operations just as Air Vice Marshall McDonald described.  In December, B-52H Stratofortresses joined other U.S. forces in conducting Exercise Phoenix Black with Royal Australian Air Forces.  Just last month, B-2 Spirits conducted sorties in the vicinity of Australia where they integrated with the Australian Air Operations Center and Australian ground-based forces. 


Our forces regularly integrate with multinational maritime assets here in the Pacific and all of this is enabled by space-based capabilities such as navigation and timing, position and satellite communications. The Wideband Global Satellite Communication system, that the U.S. and Australia operate together, demonstrates the true connection of all the domains and countries. 


But we do so according to international norms.


As the U.S. strives to cooperate across domains and within the global commons, our strategy is one of integration on a global scale through foundational agreements that promote understanding of shared values and goals.


Our agreements lay the foundation for us to share information, to share capabilities and to operate across domains and throughout the global commons.


The domains in which we operate are interrelated, mutually dependent and each enables operations within other domains.  And even as our militaries support our civil societies, global commerce demands accessible air routes and sea lanes, and managing the movement of goods relies upon freedom of navigation and availability of services within every domain.  These are domains from space-based position, navigation and timing, to satellite communications and computer network operations.


Secure access to the global commons and freedom of navigation within the various domains creates opportunities to conduct business seamlessly across the planet to communicate and to guide goods to their final destination. But by taking advantage of the opportunity that access provides, we become dependent upon domain infrastructure which is increasingly vulnerable to disruption and potentially attack. A risk to one user or domain is a risk to all users and domains.  We have to confront that challenge together as well.


That said, we must establish and maintain international norms in all domains. We all have an interest and advantage in seeing international norms followed in the commons. Securing access to the global commons requires rules-based order to ensure the free flow of commerce, information and ideas.


On the sea, freedom of navigation underpins maritime safety and facilitates global commerce through critical sea routes. By respecting international norms we contribute to orderly trade and healthy economies.


To exercise our cooperation and collaboration at sea, I’m proud to highlight that the U.S. Navy hosted the 25th Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise last year – the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Twenty six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC. Last year, there were more countries and personnel than in previous years including many of the nations represented here in this room. Each of those 26 nations played a key role in RIMPAC and shaping what cooperation can lead to when we work towards a common objective.


Likewise, in the air, freedom of navigation underpins aviation safety and facilitates global commerce through major air crossroads. By respecting standards set through the International Civil Aviation Organization, we all contribute to the movement of people and goods across natural and political borders.


And while we're talking about the air domain, I would be remiss not to mention the crowning example of coalition building in the air domain which can be seen right here with the F-35 program, two of which, Aussie 01 and Aussie 02, will be here later this week for the first time in the Pacific at Avalon.

And there are a number of countries represented here this morning who have seen the firsthand of coalition building through programs like the F-35.


In this domain, we are also making progress when it comes to multinational integrated air and missile defense.  Given the proliferation of missile threats around the globe, no one country can do missile defense alone.  We have to work together as a team.  That’s why we established the Nimble Titan cooperative missile defense forum. 


Nimble Titan is a U.S. Strategic Command sponsored biannual global missile defense campaign of experimentation and provides a forum for policy makers and military leaders to examine regional and global cooperative air and missile defense challenges. It is the only venue of its kind that brings together multinational policy makers and military leaders to discuss and explore air and missile defense issues.  It is a forum to explore how air and missile defense can contribute to a broader deterrence framework.  Today, Nimble Titan 18 brings defense and foreign affairs experts from 28 nations and organizations from Europe, the Asia-Pacific, the Gulf region and North America together to explore future concepts, increase data sharing and enhance understanding. All of this, specifically and deliberately developed toward the goal of understanding each nation's potential contributions and then finding the best way to integrate those capabilities for a greater collective effect.


In the cyber domain, freedom of navigation means the free flow of information, money, commerce, ideas and privacy.  And we have a number of partner nations imbedded in our subordinate command, U.S. Cyber Command, to help coordinate mutual cyber defense. 


Additionally, we participated with our Jordanian partners in Exercise Eager Lion, both in 2015 and 2016.  Last year’s event included a broad range of mission sets beyond the traditional air domain that also included cooperative cyber defense.  Events like these allow us to enhance interoperability and they continue to strengthen relationships with our partners. They allow us to find those niche opportunities where all countries can contribute to collective security.


In space, freedom of navigation is critical to security and global commerce. Space systems provide critical infrastructure to fuel a growing globalized economy and the U.S. is committed to international cooperation in developing norms of responsible behavior in space to keep services viable. Space capabilities are a vital component of the multidomain integration which provides military capabilities in theater operations across the globe.


A primary threat to continuity of space-enabled services is orbital debris. Mitigating debris, both natural and man-made, should be a priority for all space-faring nations and is a responsibility we all share. We call on all nations to share in the commitment to act responsibly in space to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust.


One of the ways we seek to build coalitions and improve overall effectiveness is through our Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data sharing program. 


A wonderful benefit of U.S. Strategic Command's SSA mission, to manage our own satellite constellations, is the abundance of data we have to share with the world.  The intent of the program is to promote the responsible use of space and improvement of spaceflight safety through the exchange of information with the global space community.  All of which, we provide at absolutely no cost to countries large and small, with large space programs and those just getting started in the space business.


We currently have agreements with 12 nations, 58 international companies, and two intergovernmental organizations.


These agreements strengthen our partnerships, while at the same time increase our collective resiliency.  Moreover, these agreements help to maintain and improve the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.


We have worked hard over many years to make the case that we want space to be a domain that is available for everyone to use. But to do that, we need to understand what is going on in space. The best way to do that is through transparency and information sharing, bringing together information from multiple countries to leverage the capabilities, toward an overall improved operational capability available to multiple countries again toward the common goal. 


We all face similar challenges with emerging cyberspace threats and often allies, both large and small, those considered wealthy, and those considered less so, possess capabilities, skills, and knowledge we cannot duplicate. Especially in the cyber domain, where even smaller countries with less overall wealth can develop and field critical niche capabilities and provide extraordinary value to a coalition far above the number of aircraft, ships or tanks it can provide.   So the challenge is to identify those partner countries, and those critical niche capabilities, to work together.


Maintaining freedom of navigation, as an international norm, is best approached via coalitions formed through an intersection of interests.  Space Situational Awareness agreements, cooperative cyber defense operations and integrated and air missile defense operations are all prime examples of this. As we work together to promote safety, scientific research and secure access to the commons, we promote political and economic stability for our home countries.


Increasingly complex global interactions may test our partnerships, yet the evolving nature of multidomain, multifunctional challenges will require an interrelated approach to addressing them.


Our Defense Secretary, James Mattis, said that the United States is stronger when we uphold our treaty obligations, and he has already begun to reaffirm our partnerships worldwide.  He made his first visits as secretary of defense to Japan and South Korea in the Asia-Pacific region, and most recently to NATO.  Our common interests must motivate us to contribute to regional and global peace and stability, because we are all invested in them.


A country’s size, wealth and development are certainly factors to the contribution they make, but whether through geography, resources or through visionary leadership – every nation can make a contribution. The advantage of coalitions, partnerships, engagements, joint operations and cooperation enable all of us to carry a part of the load. There is strength in how partners respond and contribute to the global security environment and then collectively address security threats.


Just about a month ago, I had the privilege of speaking on the floor of NATO in Brussels at a conference of the permanent representatives of the 28 nations of NATO.  I had the privilege of speaking about some of the U.S. contributions to the NATO mission, and several other nations did the same. 


At one point, one of the nations that many would consider a smaller nation with a limited military, took the microphone and said, “We don’t have as much to contribute as most of the other nations around this table.  But what we do have, we will contribute in every conceivable way.  We will provide logistics if needed, we will provide manpower if needed. We will provide vocal support if that is all we can contribute, but we will find a way to contribute in the most meaningful way and fill the most meaningful gap that we can.” 


Despite what others may think, I will tell you that in no way is that a small contribution.  In fact, in many ways that’s the largest contribution any nation can make. 


So, whether in Europe or Asia, the Atlantic or the Pacific, north of the equator or here “down under” − that’s what it means to form coalitions across the spectrum of capability and wealth. We all have something to contribute and must work together to identify and foster those contributions. The collective benefit created by these networks supports the advancement of common interests in the security environment.


I’d like to thank our hosts once more for organizing this symposium, one in a series of opportunities to convene and collaborate and I look forward to many more.


Again, thank you for having me.