Jun 18, 2012
The sea-lanes that supply Asia's energy needs are unquestionably vulnerable, but alternatives to the U.S. Navy's traditional role in protecting them have become desirable. One approach would be employ multiple U.S. military and government elements; a second would promote the capabilities of and cooperation among nations in the region.
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Despite their growing importance in transporting vital energy resources, Asia's sea-lanes are already under stress and vulnerable, not only to geopolitical concerns but also the threat of piracy. Although the U.S. Navy has traditionally guaranteed freedom of the seas in Asia, a growing mission set and shrinking force structure challenge this role. RAND explored two alternative approaches to sea-lane security: joint and multinational. A joint approach would involve not only the U.S. Navy but also the U.S. Air Force and other relevant elements of the U.S. government (such as the Coast Guard and Department of State). A multinational approach could enhance partner capacity and promote burden sharing; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of unilateral and bilateral efforts; and better accommodate the emergence of new powers in the region, improving regional stability through confidence building. While the direct benefits of greater Air Force engagement in improving energy sea-lane security would likely be marginal, the spillover benefits of joint operations with the Navy and multinational engagement could make greater Air Force involvement worthwhile.
Threats to Sea-Lane Security
Current Sea-Lane Security Capabilities and Mechanisms
Alternative Approaches to Sea-Lane Security
Hurdles to Overcome
How to Put Something in Place: Pursuing a Modified Approach
Additional Multinational Maritime Security Mechanisms in Asia