Will US forces be given the nod?
A FEDERAL Department of Defence study has added further fuel to speculation that increasing the US Marine presence in Darwin to 2500 will be achieved next year.
KPMG Darwin has been tasked with finding out how Darwinites feel about the United States Force Posture initiatives.
Defence said it is facilitating the study to better understand the social and economic impacts of the annual rotations of US Marine Corps and the participation of US air elements in Australian Defence Force training such as exercise Pitch Black.
The study will also look at similar aspects of the ADF's presence in Darwin.
The Northern Territory Government has made no secret of the fact it would like the US Marine Rotational Force to be increased to 2500 as quickly as possible.
Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison is on the record that it is the NT Government's preference the US Marine presence in Darwin increases to 2500 "sooner rather than later".
Defence said the KPMG study would cover a range of areas and "would allow the views and perspectives of the NT community to be heard and considered".
Two public consultation sessions will be held next week, Tuesday, August 14 and Saturday, August 18 at the KPMG offices in Darwin. The new Defence study follows closely on the pledge by US Defence Secretary James Mattis that "the US and Australia will walk the walk in the Indo-Pacific".
The current size of Marine Rotation Force Darwin is 1587 US Marines, with an additional eight MV-22 Ospreys and six M777 howitzers.
It is the largest rotation to Darwin, which is now in its seventh rotation since the first deployment of 250 troops in 2012. The day after attending Australia-US Ministerial Consultations in California with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Defence Minister Marise Payne and US Defence Secretary Mattis, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasised the strategic importance of Australia.
Mr Pompeo said Beijing ''poses concerns'' for a free and open South Pacific and more broadly across the Indo-Pacific.