U.S. Not Seeking Bases in Australia

By Jim Garamone

SYDNEY – The United States is not even thinking about basing American troops in Australia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Australian officials last week.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said Jan. 16 that U.S. and Australian officials are considering building a joint training area in Australia. The Australian press has magnified that embryonic project into a U.S. request for permanent bases.

Myers said it is no secret that the United States and Australia have a close military relationship. Service members of the two countries train constantly together. What has been proposed is enhancing a training area in Australia so service members can get more out of the training money, he said.

"It has nothing to do with U.S. bases," Myers said. "It has everything to do with our ability to train with our good partners, the Australians, and the Australians training with their good partners, the U.S., in Australia."

Myers said he has no idea now what the training facility will involve. "There is a ‘scoping effort’ going on in the next few months by the two militaries, and that may give the idea some definition," he said.

Modern training areas generally require more measurement capability. The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., for example, has measuring equipment all over the range. Getting that same capability in Australia might be one way of enhancing the training experience, officials said.

"We are looking at our global footprint worldwide," Myers said, to adapt the world’s new security environment. This requires a different set of forces and changing the places where some forces are based, but stationing U.S. forces in Australia is not part of the discussions, he said.

"We’re taking a look at this holistically, which we don’t do very often in our department," the chairman said. "But Secretary (of Defense Donald H.) Rumsfeld has said this is what we want to do. There may be some changes in the future, but they do not include moving U.S. bases to Australia."

Myers is finishing a four-nation trip to Asia with a visit with his counterpart, Australian Chief of Defense Forces Army Gen. Peter Cosgrove. He said the purpose of his trip Down Under is to "check base with my counterpart, thank Australia for its continuing role in the war on terrorism, discuss regional and global issues with my counterpart and just keep the close interaction going."

The attack, which took place at the height of rush hour in Baghdad, was clearly timed to claim the maximum possible number of innocent victims. Once again, it is innocent Iraqis who have been murdered by these terrorists in a senseless act of violence.

I share the deep outrage of my Iraqi friends and colleagues at this tragic and inexcusable loss of life. I pass my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those murdered.

Our determination to work for a stable and democratic future for this country is undiminished. Our plan to hand over remaining authority to a new Iraqi government in July this year remains unchanged.

The Coalition is doing all it can to assist the Iraqi security and emergency services in dealing with the aftermath of this terrorist attack. Many of the Iraqi wounded are being treated in a nearby Coalition military hospital, and will be given the best care available.”