New Pa­cific com­man­der takes on half the world

Task: To boost U.S. clout in area with­out new re­sources

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY SHAUN WATERMAN

Within 10 years, U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand will be­come the mil­i­tary’s strate­gic cen­ter of grav­ity, sup­plant­ing Cen­tral Com­mand and its fo­cus on al Qaeda and the Mid­dle East as the Pen­tagon “piv­ots” to­ward Asia.

At a cer­e­mony this month at PA­COM head­quar­ters in Hawaii, Navy Adm. Sa­muel J. Lock­lear III took com­mand of the 250,000 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel, 180 ships and 1,400 air­craft based in the Pa­cific re­gion.

“In a world where the econ­omy, pop­u­la­tion and mil­i­tary power are all shift­ing to­ward the Pa­cific, the job you fill to­day has never been more im­por­tant,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him.

“We have made clear that we are a Pa­cific power,” De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta said at the event, adding that PA­COM’S com­man­der needs to be “a great diplo­mat” as well as “a great war­rior.”

PA­COM’S vast area of re­spon­si­bil­ity cov­ers about half the earth’s sur­face. The 36 na­tions in its realm in­clude half the world’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion, two of the world’s big­gest economies (China and Ja­pan), the world’s largest democ­racy (In­dia) and the world’s most pop­u­lous Mus­lim na­tion (In­done­sia).

The re­gion in­cludes the volatile Korean Penin­sula, where 28,500 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel and their South Korean al­lies face North Korea’s army across the armistice line of a war that fin­ished more than half a cen­tury ago but was never for­mally ended.

The sta­bil­ity of North Korea, where a 20-some­thing dic­ta­tor who in­her­ited the post from his fa­ther pre­sides over a her­metic and crum­bling to­tal­i­tar­ian state, is a mat­ter of “great con­cern” to the com­mand’s lead­ers, said Maj. Gen. Roger F. Mathews, deputy com­man­der of Army forces in PA­COM.

“We have a very long-term, very pow­er­ful re­la­tion­ship with our South Korean al­lies,” Gen. Mathews said, ex­press­ing con­fi­dence that U.S. forces in the re­gion can deal with “the whole spec­trum of pos­si­ble con­flict” on the penin­sula.

In many ways, Korea is a model for PA­COM, which faces the task of hav­ing to ex­pand the U.S. mil­i­tary’s im­pact in the re­gion with­out ad­di­tional re­sources, given the cur­rent fis­cal cli­mate.

The Army’s role in that is to help lever­age the man­power and fire­power of U.S. al­lies in the re­gion, in­clud­ing Australia, Thai­land and In­done­sia, Gen. Mathews said.

“How can we help max­i­mize the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of our al­lies?” he asked rhetor­i­cally. The an­swer, he said, is to ex­er­cise and train along­side them.

U.S. train­ing mis­sions in­creas­ingly would in­volve units not based in the re­gion but ro­tat­ing in and out from bases in the United States as they are pulled out of Afghanistan.

“Part of the strate­gic shift [to­ward Asia] is to en­sure that as many units as pos­si­ble have the skills and the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the re­gion,” Gen. Mathews said.

Even as the Army draws down its over­all man­power, com­man­ders will keep the 67,000 sol­diers it has in PA­COM. “You’re not go­ing to see the num­bers change,” the gen­eral said.

Nonethe­less, the forces’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties will grow as more spe­cial­ist units are moved into the re­gion or de­vel­oped there, he said.

In ad­di­tion to the Army forces based there, five of the 11 U.S. air­craft-car­rier strike groups are based in the PA­COM the­ater, as are three of its six squadrons of the new­est fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter jets, the F-22 Rap­tor.

The F-22 Rap­tor is the most ex­pen­sive piece of mil­i­tary hard­ware in his­tory. For $77.4 bil­lion, the Pen­tagon bought a to­tal of 187 planes — a cost of $413 mil­lion each.

The fighter jets are de­signed to out­fly and out­fight com­peti­tors from even the most ad­vanced mil­i­taries, pro­vid­ing U.S. com­man­ders with the guar­an­tee of air su­pe­ri­or­ity vi­tal for the pro­jec­tion of mil­i­tary power across the vast Pa­cific re­gion.

But the Rap­tor pro­vides not only su­pe­ri­or­ity in the air, say U.S. of­fi­cials, who have hinted at se­cret cy­ber­war ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The F-22 is “an ex­tremely ca­pa­ble, lead­ing-edge tech­nol­ogy plat­form,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael A. Keltz, di­rec­tor of strate­gic plan­ning and pol­icy for PA­COM, told blog­gers last year.

He said the air­craft gives com­man­ders the abil­ity to see and act, “not just in the air-to-air regime, but also in the cy­ber­regime, the elec­tronic-war­fare regime.”

The cy­ber­do­main is a key area for the com­mand be­cause China, PA­COM’S largest and most threat­en­ing po­ten­tial en­emy in the re­gion, likely would strike first with cy­ber­weapons in any war, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by a con­gres­sional blue-rib­bon panel.

A pre-emp­tive Chi­nese cy­ber­strike would be de­signed to dis­rupt the elec­tronic net­works on which U.S. forces rely to or­ga­nize and move troops and their sup­plies of am­mu­ni­tion and fuel around the Pa­cific, ac­cord­ing to the U.s.-china Eco­nomic and Se­cu­rity Re­view Com­mis­sion.

Adm. Sa­muel J. Lock­lear III

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.