In Korea, Think Capabilities, Not Numbers, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2004 People have to stop thinking of capabilities solely in terms of numbers, the commander of all U.S. forces in Korea said.
Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte appears before the Senate Armed
Services Committee on Sept. 23 to testify on the global posture review of the
U.S. military. Photo by Master James M. Bowman, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. Leon J. Laporte, the commander of Combined Forces Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 23 that they need to look at the U.S. military posture in Korea in terms of capabilities rather than numbers.
"Historically, the metric of readiness has been the number of troops on the ground," Laporte said. "However, what is truly important is the complimentary deterrent and combat capabilities that each nation contributes to the security of the peninsula."
Laporte said the capabilities the United States brings to the alliance with South Korea will allow the U.S. military to drop the number of troops on the peninsula while maintaining security.
"These capabilities allow us to focus overmatching combat power when and where we choose to defeat armed aggression," he said. "United States forces can now be sized to provide tailored capabilities that compliment those of the Republic of Korea ally, providing overwhelming strategic deterrence. Our regional and strategic reinforcement capabilities allow us to defeat any potential North Korean aggression."
Combined Forces Command has 690,000 active-duty servicemembers and 3 million reservists from the Republic of Korea and 34,000 U.S. personnel. The South Korean military is well-trained, well-equipped and well-led, LaPorte said.
What's more, South Korea is now the 11th largest economy in the world, able to pay for defense. The country is more than able to shoulder more of the defense burden on the peninsula. U.S. and South Korean troops are interoperable, and that has also beefed up capabilities.
The United States will reduce the number of troops on the peninsula by 12,000. The U.S. troops left in the country are scheduled to move away from the demilitarized zone to two hub bases south of the Han River.
Combined forces modernization programs include more than 340 enhancements to strengthen deterrence. These include fielding the PAC-3 Patriot missile system, coupled with the stationing of a Patriot brigade headquarters and a second Patriot battalion with two more Patriot batteries. This guards against North Korea's missile threat.
The United States has also upgraded Army AH-64 Apache Delta Longbow helicopters . Navy/Marine Corps FA-18E-F Super Hornets are available to provide precision- strike capabilities day or night and in all weather. The United States can also rush reinforcements to the country via high-speed vessels and Air Force C-17 airlifters, should the need exist.
Laporte said that consolidating U.S. forces in Korea into two hubs south of the Han River is the final component of transformation in the country. "This effort consists first of consolidation of forces and then their eventual relocation to the south away from the Seoul metropolitan area, creating a less-intrusive footprint and increasing the operational mission flexibility of our on- peninsula-stationed forces," he said.
He said that close consultations between the United States and South Korea resulted in this plan.
Laporte stressed that the command is ready to fight and win on the peninsula. "We are posturing the combined ROK-U.S. capabilities to deter and, if necessary, defeat any potential North Korean aggression," he said. "Our plan is on course to enhance the United States and Republic of Korea capabilities, to shape combined roles and missions by leveraging each alliance member's unique strengths and while aligning the force for sustainable long-term United States military presence on the peninsula."