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AUKUS: A Good Idea with Serious Implementation Challenges

The AUKUS agreement, which was announced two years ago, has the potential to be a major breakthrough in the Indo-Pacific security architecture. By sharing nuclear submarine technology with Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia can significantly enhance their ability to deter and respond to threats from China.

"AUKUS is not directed against any country. It is designed to strengthen our security and protect our shared values." - Joe Biden

AUKUS is a promising idea, but it will not significantly change the balance of power in the South China Sea for almost a decade.

This is because Australia will need time to build a nuclear enterprise and develop a skilled workforce. The US also needs to reform its export control policy and strengthen its submarine industrial base.

Despite these challenges, AUKUS could serve as the foundation of an alliance of democracies that can counter and deter potential adversary states.

The US can no longer go it alone, and must augment its capacity by leveraging the capabilities of its allies and the commercial sector. This is true for both current and future capabilities, such as increasing the number of submarines on station and developing new technologies in autonomy and quantum computing.

The AUKUS agreement was rushed through, and some basic issues were ignored, such as the industrial base and export control policy.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has raised concerns about the industrial base constraints. The decision to transfer Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the 2030s before relying on a yet-to-be-designed British-Australian submarine is a sign of the inadequacies of the US submarine industrial base.

The 2030s are a long way off, and a lot could change in the meantime. However, so far, there have been more expectations raised than weapons delivered.

The benefits of emerging technology partnerships in Pillar Two of AUKUS could lead to the deployment of new capabilities in the next two to five years. This is a realistic goal, as US allies are increasingly important sources of innovation and cutting-edge technology.

The AUKUS agreement is a promising idea, but it will need to be implemented effectively in order to be successful.

Here are some of the specific challenges and opportunities that the AUKUS agreement faces:


However, there are serious challenges that need to be addressed in order for AUKUS to be successful. One of the biggest challenges is the need to strengthen the US submarine industrial base. The US Navy is currently struggling to build enough submarines to meet its needs, and this problem is only going to get worse as the Navy retires more of its older submarines.

Another challenge is the need to reform US export control regulations. The International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) make it difficult to share sensitive technology with allies, and this is a major obstacle to cooperation under AUKUS.

Finally, there is the need to develop a new export control regime for the AUKUS nations. The current regime, which is controlled by the State Department, is not well-suited to the needs of this new trilateral partnership.

If these challenges can be addressed, AUKUS has the potential to be a major force for good in the Indo-Pacific. However, it is important to remember that AUKUS is just an agreement. It is up to the three countries to make it a success.

Here are some specific proposals that could help to address the challenges facing AUKUS:

  • Congress should seriously consider an alternative capital budgeting mechanism to lock in long-term funding for submarine industrial base investments.

  • The AUKUS partners should also take another look at how best to increase the number of submarines on station in this decade. This could include extending the life of Los Angeles-class submarines while jointly manning them, extending production of the UK's Astute line, and rapidly developing and deploying unmanned undersea systems.

  • A new export control regime should be created for the AUKUS nations. Control over this regime should be taken away from the State Department and moved to another agency, which would be directly overseen by the National Security Council.

  • These are just a few of the challenges that need to be addressed in order for AUKUS to be successful. It is important to remember that AUKUS is a new and ambitious agreement, and it will take time and effort to make it work. However, if the three countries are willing to invest in the partnership, AUKUS has the potential to be a major force for good in the Indo-Pacific.

In addition to the specific proposals mentioned above, there are a few broader points that are worth making about AUKUS.

First, it is important to remember that AUKUS is not a replacement for existing alliances, such as NATO or the Five Eyes. Rather, it is a new and complementary alliance that can help to strengthen the overall security architecture of the Indo-Pacific.

Second, AUKUS is not just about military cooperation. It is also about sharing technology and expertise in a wide range of areas, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and cyber security. This will help to strengthen the ability of the three countries to address the challenges of the 21st century.

Finally, AUKUS is a sign of the growing strategic cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This cooperation is essential to meeting the challenges posed by China in the Indo-Pacific.


  • Enhanced defense capabilities: The AUKUS agreement could help to enhance the defense capabilities of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This could deter aggression and promote stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Closer defense cooperation: The AUKUS agreement could lead to closer defense cooperation between the three countries. This could include joint exercises, training, and intelligence sharing.

  • New technology development: The AUKUS agreement could also lead to the development of new technologies that could benefit all three countries. This could include new submarine designs, weapons systems, and sensors.

In addition to the challenges and opportunities mentioned above, the AUKUS agreement also raises a number of other issues, such as the environmental impact of nuclear submarine operations and the potential for nuclear proliferation. These issues will need to be addressed in order for the AUKUS agreement to be successful.

Overall, the AUKUS agreement is a complex and ambitious undertaking. It has the potential to be a major force for good in the Indo-Pacific region, but it also faces a number of challenges. The success of the AUKUS agreement will depend on the willingness of the three countries to work together and overcome these challenges.


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