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US land power in the Indo-Pacific: opportunities for the Australian army

By Marcus Schultz

The US Army is undergoing its most consequential period of transformation since the end of the Cold War. The re-emergence of great power competition and a deteriorating strategic environment is forcing the US Army to rethink not just its approach to land warfare but also its future role alongside the US Marine Corps in key regions around the globe. In the Indo-Pacific, this doctrinal and structural transformation is informing a new approach to joint exercises and 'no gaps' defence collaboration to deter Chinese aggression. These developments hold important insights for key US allies and partners, including Australia and Japan.

Australia’s new unifying strategic approach to national defence and the high degree of convergence this has with US defence strategy offers a timely window of opportunity for the Australian Army to explore the combined use of land power in a heighten threat environment. This work should be mutually reinforcing and constitute part of Australia’s approach to managing risk and threats and balancing its contributions to deterrence.

This report aims to provide the Australian defence establishment and military leaders with well-considered options for engaging the US on matters of mutual interest. The report provides an overview of the US Army’s changing force posture and approach to land warfare, followed by a brief analysis of its evolving role as an essential enabler of joint force operations in a maritime environment. The report then explores the US Army’s ‘campaigning’ activities in the region and its efforts to increase allied and partner capacity for high-end military contingencies in all domains. Finally, the report highlights opportunities for the Australian Army to enhance interoperability with US land forces in a deepening US-Australia alliance.