“That’s why my very first overseas trip was to this region to visit those allies and partners. I’m excited to work to pull the strengths of our regional partners more closely together. And their contributions are particularly crucial in this theater, our priority theater of operations. That brings me to the leadership of this great Command.” — Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, at the USINDOPACOM Change of Command ceremony, on April 30th, 2021.
On the pier in Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i, with the iconic reminders of the USS Arizona -that began World War II for the United States- and the USS Missouri -that ended World War II for the United States and its Pacific Allies- as a backdrop, the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley presided over the change of command ceremony, a Command covering 52 percent of the Earth’s surface and two thirds of the world’s trade, at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Combatant Command. It is a Command that was brought to being to save the United States, on December 17, 1941, by Admiral Chester William Nimitz.
“It is a great responsibility, but I shall do my utmost to meet it.” — Admiral Nimitz commenting on his mission, on December 17, 1941.
The significance of this Command is the same as it was with Admiral Nimitz. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin put forward his intent, and that of the President of the United States, on the importance and priority of this Command in today’s competition for world power with China — which contests in the seas, islands, land, air, and Space of this combatant command.
“It is the one country in the world that has the military, economic, and diplomatic capacity to undermine and challenge the rules-based order that we care so much about and are determined to defend… Over time, China believes that it can be, and should be, and will be the dominant country in the world”. United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken; ‘60 Minutes’, May 2nd, 2021.
Adm Phil Davidson passed this great responsibility over to Adm John Aquilino, to become the 26th Indo-Pacific Combatant Commander, on April 30th, 2021.
“Make no mistake, the Communist Party of China seeks to supplant the idea of a free and open international order for the new order. One with Chinese characteristics. One where Chinese national power is more important than international law.” — Adm Phil Davidson, at the USINDOPACOM Change of Command ceremony, on April 30th, 2021.
Admiral Phil Davidson was the United States Indo-Pacific Combatant Commander from 30 May, 2018, to April 30th, 2021, during a critical period, when the U.S. shifted in geographical and functional focus to the near-peer competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region. Admiral Davidson championed and led the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI): a $27 billion phased plan to meet the Command’s greatest challenges.
Admiral John Aquilino, the United States Indo-Pacific Combatant Commander from April 30th, 2021, onward, now takes the legacies of Admiral Phil Davidson -to include carrying the PDI to maturation- and bears the great responsibility of doing his utmost to meet it — as given to him by Admiral Nimitz.
“The way we’ll fight the next major war is going to look very different from the way we fought the last ones. We all need to drive toward a new vision of what it means to defend our nation. In this young century, we need to understand faster, decide faster, and act faster.” — Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, addressing the distinguished audience at the USINDOPACOM Change of Command ceremony, on April 30th, 2021.
The United States Indo-Pacific Combatant Command remains the leading warfighter command in the United States military. It has to be. The United States President, the United States Secretary of Defense, and the United States Congress entrusted Admiral John Aquilino with this Command — and the United States Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did so through their actions in presiding over this event in person, with a distinguished audience.
During WWII, the Pacific Command proved to be the most consequential war-winning Command for the United States of America. While the Pacific Command was born to concentrate against one adversary, today’s Indo-Pacific Command has matured with the expanded responsibility to protect and defend America against the threats posed by the aggregation of three adversaries: China, Russia, and North Korea. The combined aggregated air, maritime, Space, electromagnetic, and missile threats have grown exponentially. America must and will support and resource Admiral John Aquilino’s Command Vision and Mission.
Recognizing the Indo-Pacific Campaign’s exquisite designs and the absolute requirement for integrated missile defense capabilities arrayed across the massive theater of operations, MDAA remains an advocate for those designs and fielding of proven systems. We have the right missile defense capabilities within the joint and allied force. We must fully integrate those capabilities. The Indo-Pacific Campaign offers the catalyst for the right integrated architecture, and for those joint capabilities that can and must be fielded quickly. The requirements for missile defense within the Indo-Pacific remain the most urgent.
We were honored to be at the Indo-Pacific Command Change of Command.