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New US administration likely to keep course for Pacific defence strategy, INDOPACOM intelligence chief says

Under the Biden administration, the US will likely retain its core defence posture and policy in the Pacific, according to Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) intelligence director.

“I don’t expect the Pacific strategy to fundamentally change,” Rear Adm Studeman said on 2 March during a keynote speech at the virtual TechNet Indo-Pacific conference, co-sponsored by AFCEA International and AFCEA Hawaii.

He noted he has received no “guidance” from the Biden administration, which would “need a longer run time” to get new people on board. And, he acknowledged, the new administration will review the defence policy, perhaps leading to “some marginal elements” being changed with “some additional flavour”.

However, he added, “The fundamental themes will probably be the same. That’s my guess, given there seems to be a united consensus of what challenges and threats are out there right now.”

The current US defence strategy focuses primarily on China and Russia as threats. “It’s very well-articulated about what our challenges are, and how to deal with them,” he said.

“We don’t have any indication there will be an alteration of the National Defense Strategy any time soon. We’re executing it as designed,” he added.

It’s in the execution of that strategy that US intelligence could seek some changes, according to Rear Adm Studeman.

“The nature of the challenge of competition with powers like China and Russia requires us to learn about the way they’re approaching their strategic objectives,” he said.

“Some of those [methods of gaining such intelligence] are not through military channels,” he pointed out. “They’re through information channels, or economic channels. Having some insight into what they’re trying to achieve in certain countries through those conduits is really important.”

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