U.S. INDOPACOM hosts Stanford FSI faculty and fellows visit


A group of 20 faculty and fellows participate in an orientation visit to Indo-Pacific Command headquarters, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 21–22, 2019, organized and sponsored by the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative. Photo courtesy of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative

On February 21–22, faculty and fellows from Stanford University traveled to Oahu, Hawaii for an orientation visit at the United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), the U.S. military command responsible for the conduct of the U.S. military’s missions throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and Asia.

The visit brought together scholars and researchers from Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Macquarie University, Australia. Organized by the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative (USASI) and the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), the visit included meetings with the commanders and staffs of INDOPACOM and five of its subordinate commands (U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Air Forces Pacific, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, and U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific), and a tour of Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG-52).

The visitors also interacted with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division’s leadership and the unit’s Jungle Training Center. The busy itinerary provided the group a superb opportunity to learn about INDOPACOM’s and its subordinate units’ threat assessments, capabilities, doctrine, regional partnerships, and readiness challenges.

These trips offer great access to America’s armed forces to those whose research focuses on or relates to national security issues, says Karl Eikenberry.

Karl Eikenberry, Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative (USASI), a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and himself a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general said: “USASI has over the past five years organized annual trips to U.S. military commands for Stanford FSI faculty and fellows. These trips offer great access to America’s armed forces to those whose research focuses on or relates to national security issues. The insights gained inform analysis, while the host organizations gain fresh perspectives different from those found within their commands.”

Photo courtesy of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative

Discussions began on February 21st at Camp H.M. Smith, the Headquarters of INDOPACOM. Brigadier General Jonathan Braga, U.S. Army, SOCPAC Commander and his staff discussed his command’s unique capabilities and roles in both conventional and counterterrorist/counterinsurgency warfare operations. Major General Michael Minihan, U.S. Air Force, INDOPACOM Chief of Staff, then hosted a wide-ranging session on his organization’s implementation of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy at a time of dynamic change within the region.

Photo courtesy of Timothy R. Mungie

This was followed by a working lunch at the INDOPACOM Flag Mess with key staff members of MARFORPAC who explained U.S. Marine force posture and contingency missions throughout the Pacific Region. The Stanford group then proceeded to Hickam Field and met with General Charles Brown, Commander, PACAF, and his Deputy Commander, Major General Russell Mack. General Brown detailed the critical role played by airlift and airpower in the vast Indo-Pacific region, and the development of new concepts for the employment of U.S. Air Force capabilities in joint (inter-service) and combined (inter-allied) operations.

Photo courtesy of Timothy R. Mungie

The visiting faculty and fellows then transited to Pearl Harbor for a tour of USS John Paul Jones led by Commanding Officer, Commander Jesse Mink, United States Navy, and Executive Officer, Commander Robert Watts, USN. Noteworthy was the destroyer’s sophisticated integrated air, surface, and underseas warfare systems, and the emphasis placed on resilience in high-end combat situations. Following the ship tour, the group attended a PACFLT command briefing chaired by the Commander, Admiral John Aquilino.

The dialogue made clear PACFLT’s emphasis on a holistic approach to deterrence and decisive operations, with an eye on future requirements. The first day of the trip ended with a working reception at the historic “Nimitz House” hosted by Admiral Aquilino, offering the attendees a chance to engage in conversations with the Commander and his staff.

The second day of the trip began with an introduction to the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), followed by expert presentations and breakout sessions on select topics including the Chinese One Belt One Road plan, the security of Taiwan, pandemic threats in the Indo-Pacific region, and cyber operations. The Stanford team then traveled to Fort Shafter for a meeting with Brigadier General Pete Andrysiak, U.S. Army and Chief of Staff, USARPAC. BG Andrysiak and the USARPAC staff elaborated on the evolving U.S. Army’s regional doctrine and extensive partnership activities.

A highlight of the group’s time in Oahu came with a visit to the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, and the 25th ID Jungle Training center via UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters. There Brigadier General J.B. Vowell, Assistant Division Commander, 25th Infantry Division and U.S. Army Hawaii (himself a former FSI Senior Military Fellow), discussed the division’s extensive missions throughout the region, including in the Korean Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of Francis Fukuyama

Faculty and fellows were also able to “get their boots (or at least tennis shoes) muddy” in the U.S. Army’s rugged training area in northern Oahu, with highly skilled soldiers demonstrating jungle warfare tactics and techniques. The trip ended with the participants hosting a reception at the Hale Koa Hotel Warriors Lounge for their many hosts over the past two days.

The trip to INDOPACOM Headquarters provided a rare opportunity for participants to talk directly with senior U.S. military leaders in the most important region of the world and to gain a better understanding of their perspectives and the many challenges that they are addressing. Faculty and fellows interacted with junior leaders at the tactical level, helping them gain an appreciation of the ethos of those serving at the cutting edge. The hosts all commented on the benefit of learning the views of scholars, many of whom have spent their academic careers writing about national security issues.

The trip provided fascinating insights into how the U.S. military views the rapidly evolving national security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, says Larry Diamond.

“The trip provided fascinating insights into how the U.S. military views the rapidly evolving national security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, and how it is organized to defend against the threats. You can read about much of this in the media and the journals, but there is just no substitute for being there, seeing our facilities on the ground, and engaging directly with the remarkable men and women (and one thing that struck me is that there are quite a number of women) who are responsible for our defense,” said Larry Diamond, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and at the Center on Democracy, Development & the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at FSI.

FSI scholars particularly valued the opportunity to connect one-on-one.

“It was invaluable to meet and hear directly from the individuals and organizations who are working so hard to ensure our security,” said Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) Senior Research Scholar Megan Palmer. For CISAC Pre-doctoral Fellow Erik Lin-Greenberg, “the opportunity to interact with decision-makers from tactical to strategic levels was incredibly valuable and helped inform my own research.”