Pacific, Korea Commanders Talk Transformation at Senate
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, 2005 Transformation dominated testimony from Pacific area unified commanders to the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Just 10 days into his command of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. William Fallon told the committee that the evolving environment in the Pacific requires U.S. forces in the region to transform.
The commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, Army Gen. Leon LaPorte, laid out how the United States and the Republic of Korea are working to build new capabilities to deter North Korean aggression.
Fallon said he had five priorities upon taking over the largest unified command in the U.S. military.
The first is to prosecute and win the war on terror. This requires the command maintain close contacts with friends and allies in the region.
The second priority is to mature the command's joint and combined warfighting capability and readiness. The third priority is to continually update operational plans.
The fourth priority is advancing Asian-Pacific security cooperation. The fifth priority is "posturing our forces for agile and responsive employment," he said.
The Korean peninsula is a dangerous place, with North Korea trumpeting that it has nuclear weapons. LaPorte said the Combined Forces Command, the warfighting U.S.-South Korean force, "has commenced its transformation strategy to enhance, shape and align."
The two nations bring different strengths to the alliance and this transformation initiative capitalizes on the "complementary capabilities and combat power."
He said the most visible changes include more than 340 United States and Republic of Korea enhancements. "We have begun to shape the combined forces by transferring selected military missions from United States forces to Republic of Korea forces," LaPorte said. "These changes acknowledge the growing capabilities of the Republic of Korea military and its growing role in its own defense while maintaining a firm United States commitment to peninsula security and regional stability."
Part of this is the reduction of 12,500 military personnel from the U.S. Forces Korea over a five-year period. "The first phase reduced 4,200 personnel in 2004, including the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which deployed from south of the demilitarized zone into combat in Iraq last August," LaPorte said. "During the second phase of the plan, we will reduce 3,800 personnel in 2005, another 2,000 in 2006, and finally will reduce 2,500 personnel between 2007 and 2008."
U.S. forces will concentrate at two hubs in the southern part of the peninsula. "This effort consists first of the consolidation of forces and then their eventual relocation to the south, away from the Seoul metropolitan area, thereby creating a less intrusive footprint and increasing the operational mission flexibility of our on-peninsula-stationed forces," he said.