Defense Details Global Posture Realignment Process
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 23, 2004 The realignment of U.S. forces in the world will mirror the changing threats and be a result of a fundamental shift in national security, the defense undersecretary for policy told the House Armed Services Committee today.
Douglas Feith said that the effort now under way thinks through how U.S. forces may be used in the coming decades. Key to this thinking is that the United States will be working with allies in the full range of military operations, from combat to peace operations.
President Bush ordered Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to study where U.S. troops are based in the world and realign them to mirror the new security environment. In South Korea, the effort has already resulted in a reduction of 12,500 U.S. service members in that country. DoD officials tout that while that drops the numbers of troops, it does not diminish the capabilities of U.S. forces in the region.
Feith said U.S. global posture is the legacy of World War II and the Korean War. "And after the Cold War ended, there were substantial reductions taken, but they were reductions in place," he said. "They were really not a realignment of our forces around the world."
Rumsfeld, in fact, has noted that in Korea, many U.S. position are exactly where they were when the fighting stopped in 1953.
Feith pointed to the realignment's premise: One important national security asset the United States possesses is its network of alliances and defense partnerships. That concept is one of five ideas that has shaped thinking on the realignment issue, he said. DoD wants to expand allied roles and build new partnerships.
"Secondly, we wanted to develop the flexibility to contend with uncertainty," he said. During the Cold War, the threat was the Soviet Union. The United States was committed to defend Western Europe. U.S. troops were in place and equipment pre-positioned for them if the Soviets came through the Fulda Gap corridor that ran through then-East Germany into West Germany.
That's no longer the case. "We have found that we've engaged in military operations over the last dozen years or so in places where nobody anticipated engaging in military operations," he said. "And it is clear that one of the most important phenomena in the world today is uncertainty."
U.S. forces must be positioned around the world so they can respond to events. "We do not believe that we know where we might have to do military operations," he said. "We therefore cannot be confident that we are based where we're going to fight. And for that reason, we need to have a force posture that allows for flexibility."
The U.S. military will focus not only within regions, but also across regions. "The idea that we have forces, for example, in Europe that are going to fight in Europe or forces on the Korean peninsula that are dedicated to Korean contingencies, is no longer our thought," Feith said.
Combatant commanders will no longer "own" forces, he said. "The secretary makes clear to everybody, the only person who owns forces, as it were, is the president, who can use the armed forces of the United States across regions as necessary," he said.
United States also needs rapidly deployable capabilities. "That's a concept that has many parts, but among those parts are not simply where you are putting facilities, but also how the forces are organized, how pre-positioned equipment is configured, so that you have the ability, to move a battalion somewhere without having to unpack a division's worth of equipment," he said. "We need to have capabilities that are readily deployable."
Finally, the key measure of effectiveness is not the numbers of forces, but the capability of those forces. The number of forces in a country is not an adequate measure of U.S. commitment, he said. Rather, the capability the U.S. presence brings is paramount.
"What we are stressing is the importance of capabilities," Feith said. "And the goal of our realignment is to push capabilities forward so that we have greater ability to fulfill our commitments and to perform military operations as needed."
The United States will continue to speak with allies around the world on this program. U.S. officials will continue to negotiate with allies on the American footprint in their regions, Feith said.