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Officials Discuss Global Posture Process

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2004 – Capabilities, not numbers, are the focus of discussions between the United States and its allies worldwide as part of the global posture review, U.S. government officials said at the Pentagon today.

Representatives from the Defense Department, the State Department and the National Security Council spoke on background about the ongoing discussions.

The officials went to great lengths to correct the impression that the discussions are solely about the number of personnel in a given country, or about bases. The officials said it is a much bigger enterprise than that.

U.S. officials have been talking to nations around the world. For example, Richard Lawless, deputy defense undersecretary for Asian and Pacific affairs, announced a concept proposal June 6 that would allow the United States to redeploy 12,500 troops from South Korea. There are currently 37,000 U.S. personnel on the Korean peninsula, including 3,600 2nd Infantry Division troops set for deployment to Iraq.

Officials stressed that all details of the proposal are being worked out with Korean officials.

Key in the proposal is the idea of capabilities. The United States would maintain capabilities equal to or greater than those in the country today. The United States is investing $11 billion to beef up capabilities in South Korea. Officials said the proposal also incorporates redeploying troops from their current positions now often encroaching South Korean cities farther back.

Officials said the move considers the first concepts the United States considers as it approaches the global positioning plan: strengthening allies and building new partnerships. The United States considers the military capabilities of allies as it examines its own position. U.S. and allied forces are transforming, and American officials will work with allies to enhance national capabilities or build new ones, officials said.

The United States also needs to handle uncertainty, they added. The old concept epitomized in the Cold War by the annual Return of Forces to Germany exercises no longer applies. Under that concept, units in the United States would marry up with equipment stored near fighting points on the East/West German border.

That was a good concept when the enemy was the Soviet Union threatening the Fulda Gap, officials said, but it is no longer the case. "Our ability at prediction is quite weak," said a DoD official. "What we really need to do is build the relationships, have the flexibility to deal with the kind of challenges we're going to face."

The United States is not just looking at one country, but over a whole region and among regions. It's not just what the United States has in Korea, but what is in Northeast Asia, that is relevant.

Speed will be crucial. U.S. troops and their equipment must deploy to a trouble spot quickly. Defense officials in the past have said a small number of troops in a hot spot quickly can often head off a problem before it escalates.

But it all comes down to capabilities. Officials said almost all the countries they have spoken with have bought into this concept. The capabilities the United States brings is the important idea, not the simple number of troops. "If we begin these discussions with numbers, we're almost sure to get this wrong," a DoD official said. "Our discussions have been 'What are the appropriate capabilities? What are the relevant capabilities for dealing with the challenges we confront?'"

The United States will continue discussions with no deadline, officials said. Some of the decisions will, of course, depend on the outcome of the base realignment and closure process, they added. The discussions with allies and friendly nations will become more concrete as the process continues, officials said.

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