Averting crisis: American strategy, military spending and collective defence in the Indo-Pacific

Averting crisis: American strategy, military spending and collective defence in the Indo-Pacific



19 August 2019


Federation Ballroom Hyatt Hotel Canberra


Public event

America’s defence strategy in the Indo-Pacific is in the throes of a serious crisis. Faced with an ever more capable and assertive China, the US military urgently needs to refocus on the requirements of great power competition and rebuild its strength after years of costly conflict in the Middle East.

Washington, however, appears unable to sufficiently focus its armed forces on this goal; while budget uncertainty and political instability has seen Congress fail to deliver a defence spending plan commensurate with the overall scope of US strategy. The result is an increasingly dangerous mismatch between America’s strategic ends and available means.

In a special report from the United States Studies Centre, Ashley Townshend, Brendan Thomas-Noone and Matilda Steward argue that in the absence of hard choices by US leaders to spend more or do less in the world, America will confront rising levels of strategic risk with destabilising consequences for the Indo-Pacific. To avert a deeper crisis, they recommend that Australia take steps to advance a strategy of collective defence to offset shortfalls in America’s regional military position and bolster a favourable balance of power.

The report was launched in Canberra with a panel discussion featuring the report authors and Lisa Murray from The Australian Financial Review.


  • Ashley Townshend
    Ashley Townshend
    Director, Foreign Policy and Defence, United States Studies Centre

    Ashley Townshend is Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. He works on international security and strategic affairs with a focus on the Indo-Pacific, including regional alliances and partnerships, maritime security, defence policy, and US, Chinese, and Australian strategy.

  • Brendan Thomas-Noone
    Brendan Thomas-Noone
    Research Fellow, Foreign Policy and Defence Program, United States Studies Centre

    Brendan Thomas-Noone is a Research Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Defence Program at the United States Studies Centre where he works on national security and technology issues, US defence and foreign policy and Indo-Pacific security.

  • Matilda Steward
    Matilda Steward
    Honorary Associate, United States Studies Centre

    Matilda Steward is an Honorary Associate at the United States Studies Centre. She was previously a Research Associate in the Foreign Policy and Defence Program and tutor in US and Australian politics.

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