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Fact Sheet: U.S. Building Maritime Capacity in Southeast Asia

November 17, 2015

For 70 years, the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific has been the foundation of regional peace, stability, and security in the region. Our presence has supported the stability and openness necessary for the unimpeded flow of resources and trade across Asia's waterways that has been critical to its unprecedented economic success. In the current environment, we are enabling our allies and partners to modernize their maritime capabilities in order to address the evolving dynamics of the region.

We are increasing the maritime security capacity of our allies and partners, to respond to threats in waters off their coasts and to provide maritime security more broadly across the region. We are not only focused on boosting capabilities, but also helping our partners develop the necessary infrastructure and logistical support, strengthen institutions, and enhance practical skills to develop sustainable and capable maritime forces.

Advancing Maritime Capabilities

We are expanding our regional maritime capacity building efforts by:

  • Committing $119 million in FY 2015 to develop Southeast Asian maritime capabilities and will seek to provide $140 million in assistance during FY 2016 subject to appropriation, totaling more than $250 million over two years.
  • Developing regional maritime security programs and funds to rapidly respond to evolving challenges.
  • Pursuing the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative announced by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a new effort to work together with our allies and partners in Southeast Asia to build a shared maritime domain awareness architecture that will help countries share information, identify potential threats, and work collaboratively to address common challenges.
  • Coordinating with our strong allies Japan and Australia on maritime security assistance to align and synchronize regional security and law enforcement assistance programs for maximum effect.
  • Funding will be allocated to Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, including as described below.

The United States is expanding its maritime cooperation with the Philippines:

  • The Philippines remains the largest recipient of maritime security assistance, and will receive a record $79 million in bilateral assistance of the FY 2015 funds allocated for developing Southeast Asian maritime capabilities. This assistance is largely focused on building the training and logistical base for expanding the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Forces' ability to conduct operations within waters off the Philippines' coasts. We are assisting with naval maintenance capacity building as well as providing interdiction vessels, naval fleet upgrades, communications equipment, and aircraft procurement.
  • We are prioritizing transfer of maritime related Excess Defense Articles (EDA) to rapidly enhance capability within limited budgets. The United States intends to grant the high-endurance U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Boutwell to the Philippine Navy, the third ship of its class that we have provided in the past few years. This will provide the Philippines the ability to maintain greater maritime presence and patrols throughout its EEZ. We are also in the process of transferring the research vessel R/V Melville to support naval research and law enforcement capabilities.
  • We will continue to support the National Coast Watch System and assist the Philippines through the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), building capacity in Philippine maritime vessel maintenance, training, law enforcement support, and intelligence assistance to expand the country's ability to detect, track, and interdict where necessary criminal and terrorist elements involved in the smuggling of sensitive items and illicit goods.
  • We will hold increased and more complex exercises and training with U.S. government agencies and U.S. Pacific Command to increase interoperability and professionalization.
  • We will continue assisting improvements in security at ports to prevent illegal activity and illegal shipments.

The United States is expanding its maritime assistance to Vietnam by:

  • Increasing maritime program assistance to $19.6 million in FY 2015 to support developing Southeast Asian maritime capabilities which we will seek to expand by providing $20.5 million in FY 2016 subject to appropriation. We are helping Vietnam bolster its maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and command and control within Vietnam's maritime agencies.
  • Lifting the ban on sales of maritime-related lethal capabilities to allow development of Vietnam's maritime capacity and encourage interoperability with other regional forces.
  • Expanding bilateral training and exercises, focusing on disaster relief and humanitarian issues.

The United States is expanding its maritime assistance to Indonesia by:

  • Maintaining robust security assistance programs, with nearly $11 million in maritime-related assistance in FY 2015 and almost $10 million planned for FY 2016 subject to appropriations.
  • Increasing Indonesia's patrol capacity, ISR integration, and maintenance capacity to enhance the Indonesian government's ability to protect its maritime areas, safeguard its natural resources, and contribute to regional security and stability.
  • Supporting the Indonesian Coast Guard's organizational development, focusing on human resource capacity, technical skills, and educational partnerships.

The United States is assisting Malaysia by:

  • Providing almost $500,000 in FY 2015 and planning to provide over $2 million in FY 2016, subject to appropriation, to work with Malaysia to build maritime law enforcement training capacity and interagency coordination to help improve their maritime domain awareness.
  • Enhancing port security to prevent illicit activity and transshipment of illegal goods.

Looking Ahead

The United States will remain engaged and committed to improving maritime security capabilities in Southeast Asia. We are working together with our allies and partners to develop the most effective mix of capabilities to provide credible maritime defenses and patrol capabilities. We will consult with our allies and partners to ascertain their needs and requirements more effectively and to explore new opportunities for maritime collaboration.

Barack Obama, Fact Sheet: U.S. Building Maritime Capacity in Southeast Asia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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