International Officers Bring New Perspectives to Pacom
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2013 When Royal Australian Navy Commodore Ian Middleton arrived at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters this summer, the sea change it represented for the Pacom staff wasn’t immediately clear.
As one of six combatant commands with responsibility for geographic regions, Pacom has a long history of hosting liaison officers in its Hawaii headquarters. Typically mid-grade officers, they serve as representatives of their home militaries who coordinate bilateral issues and activities with the Pacom staff on a daily basis.
But Middleton represented the first wave of a new initiative that Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, Pacom’s commander, is introducing to integrate senior allied officers into his staff.
The first international senior flag-level officer to arrive at the headquarters, Middleton serves as Pacom’s deputy director in the J5 Planning and Policy Directorate. A member of the Australian senior executive service, Cameron Ashe, arrived soon after to serve as deputy director in the J2 Intelligence Directorate. Another international officer, Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. William Seymore, came on board as the international operations and engagements Officer in the J3 Operations Directorate.
All three positions previously had always been held by U.S. flag officers.
The international officers work for Locklear and his senior staff rather than their own militaries’ chains of command. Referred to as “embeds,” they serve just as any U.S. flag officer in their positions would -- performing the same duties, attending the same meetings and planning sessions and accessing the same intelligence networks.
“They work the theater cooperation plans just like any other officer,” Locklear said. “They travel on my behalf and speak on my behalf.”
But as Locklear noted during an interview here with American Forces Press Service, they also bring an added dimension to the staff in terms of regional insights and experience.
“The way I look at this, this is more about an internationalization of my thinking versus the staff,” he said. “These officers bring perspectives from their countries that enter into the way I and my staff execute our authorities throughout this region.”
Looking across Pacom’s vast area of operations, Locklear said he feels well served by senior U.S. officers who command U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. A four-star U.S. officer in South Korea -- currently Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti -- focuses on military issues and operations there and the overall strength of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. A three-star U.S. commander in Japan – Air Force Lt. Gen. Salvatore A. “Sam” Angelella -- commands U.S. Forces Japan with a commitment to enhancing the U.S.-Japan alliance.
But particularly as the United States implements a strategy focused heavily on the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, Locklear wanted more opportunity to coordinate closely with other allies and key partners in the region.
“The Pacific rebalance underscores the importance of making sure our alliances are as strong as they can be, and that we are coordinating our future alliance activities together the best we can across all our activities,” he said.
“That’s increasingly important in the environment we are in today,” he said, particularly in light of “a regional set of problems that are going to have to be addressed by our allies and partners in a more robust way.”
Increasing the synergy in how regional partners respond to these issues is the precise job Middleton conducts on a daily basis at the Pacom headquarters. Rather than limiting his focus to bilateral U.S.-Australian issues as a liaison officer might, he has taken on the bigger challenge of increasing multinational planning and engagement.
With more than 30 years with the Royal Australian Navy with multiple deployments across Southeast Asia, he recognizes that he brings something to the table that most U.S. officers can’t.
“Having international officers brings a broader international perspective to the staff,” Middleton said.
“The majority of staff planners here at Pacom have been trained through the U.S. military,” he said. “I was trained in a different system and also have had different experiences. So I look at things differently. And I think that diversity of ideas adds to the richness of Pacom’s thinking when it comes to planning operations.”
One of Middleton’s big challenges is to areas where allies and partners can better share the burden and costs involved in promoting regional security and stability. That applies, he said, whether it’s building partner capacity in areas such as maritime domain awareness, teaching regional nations how to police their own economic zones, defending against pandemic threats or conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions like the one underway in the Philippines.
“The bottom line is that the U.S. can’t do it on its own,” Middleton said. “It is just too big an area. So the more we can promote partnership and more coherent planning, the better we are able to spread that burden around.”
With the internationalization initiative only in its initial phase, Locklear said he’s open to the prospect of bringing more international officers on staff in the future.
“Right now, we’re prototyping it to see the benefits, not only to my staff, but also to the nations who send the officers,” he said.
But based on his initial assessment, Locklear said he sees the arrangement as a win-win for everyone involved.
“It gives the officers sent by some of our key allies the ability to help us broaden our view of the theater, and it helps the countries that send them to understand better the U.S. and Pacom positions in the theater,” he said.
Sharing insights from their own militaries’ perspectives, the international officers are helping Pacom “look at where we can partner better, where we might have duplication of efforts and where we can identify efficiencies so we can improve our efforts together,” Locklear said.
In announcing last March Australia’s decision to send two senior officers to Pacom, Australian Chief of the Defense Force Gen. David Hurley recognized the doors the arrangement would open.
“These two embed positions will provide increased opportunities for our personnel to work together on security issues of common interest,” he said. “It will also allow us to deepen our cooperation, particularly through multilateral exercises with a range of allies and partners.”
Middleton said he’s learning every day in his new role at Pacom.
“I work with a very dedicated team of military professionals with different experiences, so I am learning from them and getting new insights into how they do operational planning,” he said.
At the same time, Middleton said his position at Pacom underscores the importance of the longstanding U.S.-Australian alliance.
“Increased engagement with Pacom sends a positive message to the region that stronger partnerships are integral to security and the future peace and prosperity of the region,” he said.
(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)