Commander Stresses Senate Support to Achieve Goals in Korea
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, 2006 Continued Senate support is essential to maintaining readiness and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Korea said yesterday.
"United States forces based in South Korea, along with military forces from the Republic of Korea and other regional partners, enable the promotion of long-term regional stability by continuing to deter an increasingly manipulative and provocative North Korea," Army Gen. Burwell B. Bell said in a prepared statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The first South Korean national security strategy, published in March 2004, outlined the Republic of Korea's plan to enhance its capabilities for assuming greater responsibility for its defense, Bell said. It also advocated the continued transformation of the Republic of Korea-United States Alliance and the promotion of security cooperation with other nations.
"Your continued support will ensure we achieve our transformation objectives by providing our forces with the resources needed to deter aggression and to foster peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region," Bell said.
The South Korean security strategy accommodates the reduction of U.S. military forces in Korea and the relocation of forces to south of Seoul, he said. It also provides for the transfer of a number of military missions from U.S. forces to Korean forces as the first of multiple steps toward a more self-reliant defense posture.
"In October 2004, the responsibility for the protection of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom shifted from the United States Army to Republic of Korea forces," he said. "This mission transfer is part of the alliance agreement that recognizes the increased capabilities of the Republic of Korea military."
To date, seven of 10 planned mission transfers have occurred, he said. Bell called the successful transfers a direct reflection of South Korea's military capabilities.
A reduction in U.S. military personnel by 12,500 also was part of the agreement. Between 2004 and 2005, U.S. troop numbers fell by 8,000, Bell said, adding that this included the deployment of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team to Iraq. When the team completes its mission in Iraq, it will be restationed in Fort Carson, Colo.
Troop numbers will decline by 2,000 this year, and in 2007 and 2008, 2,500 more will leave Korea, Bell said. This will leave an authorized end strength of 25,000 U.S. military personnel on the peninsula, he added.
"This reduction plan principally affects the 8th United States Army, which is reducing its force by 40 percent as it simultaneously restructures many of its units as part of the Department of the Army's total force transformation effort," Bell said.
The U.S. footprint in South Korea also will shrink as the headquarters elements of the U.N. Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea will relocate to Camp Humphreys in 2007. All other units currently at Yongsan Army Garrison will finish relocating by December 2008, he said.
When the realignment is complete, U.S. forces will have a less intrusive footprint, consolidating into two "enduring installations" in southern Seoul, Bell said. These moves will significantly improve the quality of life for U.S. servicemembers and also return valuable land to the Republic of Korea, he said.
The relocations are the result of the Yongsan Relocation Plan Agreement, which the Republic of Korea National Assembly ratified in December 2004. By the end of 2008, U.S. Forces Korea will have closed 59 facilities and returned a total of 36,000 acres to the Republic of Korea, Bell said.
Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base will be expanded to accommodate the relocating troops. Bell said that continued funding and sufficient host-nation-funded construction are crucial to keeping this plan on track. Expansions at the two facilities will go a long way toward providing adequate housing for all unaccompanied servicemembers by 2007, Bell said. Barracks space for Marines and sailors assigned to Camp Mu Juk, in Pohang, will also be available, he said. Quarters for unaccompanied senior enlisted personnel and officers will get improvements also.
Funding is also needed to renew aging infrastructure. More than one-third of buildings in the command are between 25 and 50 years old, Bell said. Another one-third are classified as temporary structures. "Our annual allocations for sustainment funding have been about 50 percent of requirements, while restorations and modernization funding has been much less than that," he said.
But physical structures are only part of what U.S. and U.N. forces need to carry out their mission, Bell said. He noted the need for suitable training ranges, among other key components to maintaining readiness.
"While our militaries transform, it is critical that we continue to enhance readiness, and the key to enhancing readiness is ensuring unfettered access to suitable training ranges and areas for the combined forces," Bell said. He noted that training ranges in Korea are small, austere and subject to encroachment.
Joint and combined command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems, known as C4I, aid in the training that keeps forces ready and are one area Bell is looking to modernizing, he said. "Our intelligence transformation efforts are focused on three things: improving our warning posture, modernizing legacy C4I architecture and sensor suites, and improving our ability to discern intent," he said. These capabilities are progressing but require sustained Congressional support, he said.
Theater missile defense is another area Bell is focusing on. "The regional missile threat requires a robust theater missile defense system to protect critical Combined Forces Command capabilities and personnel," he said. "To protect critical United States facilities in Korea, we must complete upgrading the remainder of our systems with advanced theater missile defense capabilities."
Bell said that pre-positioned equipment, including weapons systems, preferred munitions, repair parts and essential supplies, are critical to maintaining the ability to reinforce the Korean theater.
This is also true of logistics. "Logistically supporting the United States Forces Korea is a complex, multifaceted undertaking," Bell said. "The proximity of the North Korean threat, coupled with the long distances from United States sustainment bases, requires a robust and responsive logistics system to support United States forces based in Korea."
With the Senate's assistance, Bell said, his command will sustain momentum and continue to build on these initiatives.