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United States Force Posture Initiatives

Background

The Commanding General of US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Lieutenant General Terry Robling, will visit Robertson Barracks on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 to meet Marines currently deployed with the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin
“The United States Force Posture Initiatives in Northern Australia are providing new opportunities for combined training, regional engagement and further interoperability between our armed forces, including for humanitarian operations.”

2017 Australian Foreign Policy White Paper

Australia’s alliance with the US is our most important Defence relationship and is central to Australia’s strategic and security arrangements.

A key component of the alliance is the United States Force Posture Initiatives (the Initiatives), comprising the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) and the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC).

The Initiatives are a tangible demonstration of the strength of the Australia-US alliance and Australia’s deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.

They provide security benefits for Australia and the US by:

  • deepening interoperability and enhancing capabilities through increased combined training and exercises,
  • increasing our engagement with regional partners in the Indo Pacific, and
  • better positioning both nations to respond to crises in the region, including Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

The Initiatives also deliver economic opportunities for Northern Australia through infrastructure investment and the provision of support services.

Initiatives timeline

2011: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama announce two force posture initiatives to enhance defence cooperation. 2012: The first Marine Rotational Force is deployed to Darwin, Northern Territory. Economic assessment of the rotations of 200-250 US Marines is released. 2013: Marine Rotational Force-Darwin training extends to Bradshaw Field Training Area for the first time. Economic and social impact assessments of the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin are released. 2014: The Force Posture Agreement is signed at Australia-IS Ministerial Consultations. 2015: Australia and the US Force Posture Agreement enters into force. 2016: Cost sharing negotiations between Australia and the US conclude. 2017: Enhanced Air Cooperation activities commence as part of the Initiatives. Australia and the US exercise as a combined force to provide humanitarian and disaster relief assistance to a remote location for the first time. Representatives from Australia and the US host the first bilateral industry date in Darwin. 2018: Three USAF B-52 aircraft are hosted in Darwin as part of Enhanced Air Cooperation activities. 2019: The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin 2019 rotation consisted of a base force of around 1,700 personnel and reached the milestone of around 2,500 US Marines through the arrival of a force enhancement from July to September 2019. A Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the Initiatives is released. A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) platoon is included in Exercise Koolendong for the first time. A cross-servicing arrangement for the repair and maintenance of C-17A Globemaster transport aircraft is agreed by Australia and the US. C-17A cross-servicing activities occur, including during Exercise Talisman Sabre. Air-to-air refuelling certification for F-16D and F-22 aircraft is achieved. Aeromedical evacuation certification for United States Air Force C-130J is achieved.

Legal and policy framework

The Initiatives are a shared commitment between Australia and the US. Government-to-Government agreements and arrangements between Australia and the US provide the legal foundation upon which the Initiatives were built and under which they continue to operate.

They are underpinned by a robust legal and policy framework, including through the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the Force Posture Agreement.

The SOFA, which entered into force in May 1963, provides the legal status of members of the US Forces in Australia.

The Force Posture Agreement, which entered into force in March 2015, operates in conjunction with the SOFA. The Force Posture Agreement provides the legal authorisation and requirements for US Forces to operate  under the Initiatives in Australia and contains important protections and assurances for both Australia and the US. The Force Posture Agreement provides the certainty needed for both countries to maximise the benefits of the Initiatives while protecting their sovereign interests. 

There are also a range of other treaties and less-than-treaty-level arrangements that provide further legal and policy frameworks to support  the US Forces while in Australia.

Further information