U.S., Pacific Partners Begin Proliferation Security Exercise

The United States and its Asia-Pacific partners are hosting a Proliferation Security Initiative exercise here, the first in what is to be an annual rotation.

The Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, is a global effort launched in May 2003 to stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related materials to and from states and nonstate actors of proliferation concern.

Eric Rosenbach, acting principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, kicked off the opening ceremony Aug. 4 for Fortune Guard 2014 at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

“PSI exercises are an important way that endorsing nations demonstrate this intention to act while enhancing their capability and capacity to do so,” Rosenbach said. “The scenarios we’ll explore in Fortune Guard reflect the real-world challenges we face, from dual-use commodities to maritime and air proliferation streams.”

Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the keynote speaker and stressed the importance of engaging key audience participants and demonstrating its viability for countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and increasing the capabilities of countries in the region to contribute to the effort.

“PSI has brought together an international community capable of acting at a moment’s notice who are committed to planning and training for any possible contingencies or eventualities, and who are willing to work together, government to government, to facilitate rapid decision-making. … And now we’re upping our game, as we gather for the first exercise under the annual Asia-Pacific exercise rotation, starting here in the United States, then next year New Zealand, then Australia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Japan,” Harris said. “Together, we are taking the next great step in preventing the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials. And we’re taking that great step together.”

Rosenbach noted that New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea all have all held at least one PSI exercise over the last six years.

“Building on this robust level of activity in concert with these partners, Exercise Fortune Guard represents the launch of a new level of commitment to PSI in the Asia-Pacific,” he said. “Each year, one of the Asia-Pacific exercise rotation partners will host a PSI exercise, offering the region a key platform for cooperation on the critical threat of WMD proliferation and for the building of capacities needed to effectively counter this threat.

“Fortune Guard is the first exercise in this series,” he continued, “and we are appreciative of our partners’ efforts in helping to plan this dynamic exercise that will focus on sharing skills and best practices related to interdiction -- from rapid, national-level decision-making to operational tactics and procedures.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel invited Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam to participate in Fortune Guard 2014. The secretary also invited several other nations -- including China, India, Indonesia, Micronesia, Palau and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- to observe tabletop discussions during Fortune Guard.

Participating nations are expected to conduct a tabletop exercise, a live exercise at sea on the USNS Henry J. Kaiser, and a port exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The tabletop exercise will focus on national-level decision-making in interdiction scenarios. Which agencies engage, at what level, and at what point in process? Thinking through these challenges in advance can better prepare all participants for real-world scenarios, officials said.

The live sea exercise will include a simulated WMD-related cargo, and participants will witness special operations teams boarding and searching the ship. South Korean, Japanese and U.S. maritime forces will participate, and the Australian navy will provide role players.

Meanwhile, another group of exercise participants will engage in an academic seminar, with topics ranging from Norway’s firsthand account of operations in the destruction of Syria’s chemical materials to the relationship between United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Proliferation Security Initiative.

On the final day of the exercise, the participants will have the opportunity to see capability demonstrations from tactical teams from Japan, Singapore and the United States related to the simulated detection of radiological and proliferation-related materials aboard a C-17 aircraft and shipping container.

“We must always remember that the fate of all nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific is inextricably linked together,” Rosenbach said. “Security and stability in this region of the world comes from the united effort of like-minded nations, and like-minded people -- people like many of you in the audience here today, people who are aware of the challenges, … aware of the opportunities … and aware of the dangers we all face together, now … and in the future. By working together toward a common goal, we have an opportunity to help shape a brighter and more prosperous world for all of us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Follow Exercise Fortune Guard on Twitter @FortuneGuard14)