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AUKUS Pillar Two Could Involve Countries Beyond US, UK, Australia

Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States hope to eventually bring in other partners on pillar two of the AUKUS security partnership to jointly develop emerging technologies, the U.S. State Department’s leader on AUKUS implementation said Nov. 27.

AUKUS has two primary lines of effort — pillar one, in which the United Kingdom and the United States are helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, and pillar two, in which the three countries are collaborating on a list of emerging technologies. So far, the three partners have established eight working groups as part of pillar two, focused on undersea capabilities; quantum technologies; artificial intelligence and autonomy; advanced cyber; hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities; electronic warfare; innovation; and information sharing.

The goal of pillar two is to find “ways in which the three countries can work together to integrate these emerging technologies into our militaries, and how we can make these militaries more interoperable and … even better in terms of what we want to do and making the Indo-Pacific safe, secure and prosperous,” said Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May named Jenkins the senior official to lead AUKUS implementation for the State Department.

While pillar one of AUKUS will remain a trilateral effort, “pillar two is something that we do see eventually … that can involve other countries,” Jenkins said during a conversation hosted by the Atlantic Council. “I think right now what we want to do is make sure that we have a good, solid basis amongst the three countries in terms of the emerging technologies … how they might be integrated into our military and how we can work together and focus on interoperability.

“But eventually … we hope to get to a point — and we will, I assume — get to a point where we can also work with other countries,” she continued. The criteria for deciding which countries could join AUKUS pillar two is yet to be determined, “but that is something that is a possibility.”

Before the three countries bring other partners into the fold, however, they have to get pillar two off the ground, which will require the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have the ability to share information with one another “very quickly,” Jenkins said. The partners “recognize that we need to work on some of our export controls that we have” to create a “more streamlined process” for information sharing, she said.

“What that meant was all three countries had to look into their processes and how they do things, to see how all three of us can work together through our legislatures [and] through our administration,” as well as forming public-private partnerships, “because so much of what’s being done, particularly in emerging technologies, is also done in the private sector,” she said.

“There’s a lot of discussion happening on the Hill right now in terms of legislation that we need to adopt to make all this happen — and similarly, we’re working with the U.K. and Australia to have comparable protections, so that we can make sure that even as we streamline the process for exchanging technology and information, that we also make sure that it’s still secure” so that nothing gets in the hands of “countries that we don’t want them to,” Jenkins said.

Along with potentially expanding the number of countries involved, Jenkins was asked if AUKUS pillar two’s scope of collaboration could involve technologies beyond the current list, such as space systems. She reiterated that “we are at the very early stages of AUKUS,” and while space is not on the agenda right now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

“We are going to be developing [over] the next 5, 10, 15 years, ways in which we can work together on military issues, how we can strengthen our capabilities together,” she said. “And so, I always say to people at this early stage, we will see where it goes as we go further and as it becomes firmer and we know a lot more of our answers. We’ll see … there may be possibilities there as well.”

Source : National Defense Magazine