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Background Roundtable to Discuss U.S. Forces Deploying from Republic of Korea to Iraq

Presenters: Senior Defense and Military Officials
May 17, 2004 4:30 PM EDT
Background Roundtable to Discuss U.S. Forces Deploying from Republic of Korea to Iraq

            Senior Defense Official: I believe that we wanted to make this as informal and as informative as possible. I think this is an opportunity for us to confirm to you all that over the weekend we've completed our notification process of our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, on our intent to rotate as part of the upcoming summer rotation in Iraq the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division from the Republic of Korea to Iraq. It involves the movement of approximately 3600 troops. The exact number is yet to be decided but it's probably within 200 either side of that number.

 

            Again, this decision was made in concert with and in coordination with our allies. We completed notification this morning and over the weekend, and at this point with notification complete we intend to proceed with the formalities of this relocation over the next week or two.

 

            With that, what I'd like to do is emphasize one very important point. That is this relocation of the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division in the context of this rotation to Iraq has been done in, again, the context of and within the bounds of our entire global posture realignment and discussion process. We began that process with both Japan and Korea well over a year ago, in one case 18 months ago. We've been discussing realignment, reposturing, repositioning with them in both cases. We've done it in the context of a formal process.

 

            In the case of the Republic of Korea we've called that process the Future of the Alliance, Policy Initiatives. In the context of Japan we've called it the Defense Review Process. And this entire effort was done to recognize our ability to position ourselves differently, recognize our increased capabilities, and recognize that in this new world of increased capabilities we were able to position ourselves differently throughout the world. Again, the discussions with both Japan and Korea reflect a global posture restructuring and we have simply determined that in looking at how we are aligned in the future that this was a commitment we were able to make and we were able to rotate this particular brigade from Korea into Iraq based on our requirement to do so with absolutely no diminution of our capabilities either in the region or on the Korean Peninsula.

 

            Q: You called it a relocation. Does that mean they're not going back to Korea?

 

            Senior Defense Official: No, not at all. A decision has not been made on that, in fact it does not have to be made. This is a one-year rotation for this particular brigade to Iraq, and I think that one year will give us adequate time to consult with our allies as we've been doing all along, to make a decision as to the disposition of the unit when it is relocated from Iraq in rotation and out of Iraq and replaced by whatever it's replaced by.

 

            Q: So they'll be going to Iraq for one year, this brigade.

 

            Senior Defense Official: Up to one year, up to 12 months.

 

            Q: So some of these soldiers that have rotated into the brigade in Korea that have been there already up to a year, is that right?

 

            Senior Military Official: Typically you would have folks in the neighborhood of six months. So what could occur is you will have some folks conceivably that will have a tour of between 18 and 24 months, far more between 12 and 18 months, and I think an important thing to put in context is that that is needed in this case and it reflects the fact that we are at war.

 

            Q: Can you speak up a little bit? I'm sorry.

 

            Senior Military Official: I'm sorry. I was just indicating again that given the demographics, that some personnel will serve between 18 months and two years. The majority will be between 12 months and 18 months tenure if the tour goes up to 12 months as we anticipate. And that this is placing a demand clearly on the force but it's in the context of trying to balance the stress on the force globally.

 

            Q: Are they eligible for the compensation that the folks that are staying longer in Iraq are getting? The $1,000 a month for people beyond 12 months?

 

            Senior Military Official: I don't know the answer to that. I think that clearly will be addressed by the Army and we'll see what comes out of that.

 

            Q: This could be the most extensive duty so far for any soldiers, up to two years really away from their families. Are you worried about the effect it's going to have on recruiting, retention?

 

            Senior Military Official: We're always concerned both about recruiting and retention, but in fact the reason, one of the reasons this unit was selected is because it has not yet pulled a tour in either Afghanistan or Iraq, so in terms of balancing the demand on the force and to make sure that as much of the Army as possible can experience the demands of the Iraqi Freedom mission, this is the right unit at this time.

 

            Q: One last thing, if I could. This is part of the 20,000 that you talked about two weeks ago? You already announced 10,000 of the 20,000.

 

            Senior Military Official: This is part of the remaining ten that we talked about that was still needed to be decided.

 

            Q: What about the rest of them that would make 20?

 

            Senior Military Official: Combat support and combat service support make up the majority of the rest and that is working.

 

            Q: Is that active or reserve or both?

 

            Senior Military Official: It will be a mix.

 

            Senior Defense Official: Let me make one additional point on something. Indeed, we have two brigades plus under the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea and as we looked around the world to see who has served and what the rotational structure will be into Iraq, in fact both of these brigades in Korea are at an extremely high state of readiness, training. They are two of the finest brigades in the United States Army. So it was natural that as we looked worldwide at our capabilities and the readiness of the various brigades, and given the fact that we have committed to and are in the process of enhancing all of our forces and our capabilities in the area, it was a natural for us to look at these two brigades and select the 2nd of the 2nd for deployment.

 

            Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about when this decision was made and the context in which it was made? President Bush indicated to the South Korean leader that this was in part to support the June 30th transition. Can you talk about the conditions that you're expecting in Iraq? Elaborate on that?

 

            Senior Military Official: I can't elaborate on anything the President might have said because I don't know what was said. But clearly, this is the context of what we discussed earlier which is the [17] brigade level of effort. And this is the one, this is the brigade which will contribute to sustaining that level of effort in Iraq.

 

            Q: And the decision was made when?

 

            Senior Military Official: It was just concluded this morning.

 

            Q: Where is their home base? What kind of equipment are they bringing with them? When do they arrive in Iraq?

 

            Senior Military Official: They'll deploy in mid-summer. I'm not sure which camp or camps specifically they come from. I'm sure the Army can provide that in detail. They are equipped with the typical mobile infantry kind of thing, Abrams and some Bradleys and similar type vehicles.

 

            Q: So they're [inaudible].

 

            Senior Military Official: That remains to be seen. There's still an assessment of what stay-behind equipment might be available in Iraq which would reduce the requirement for transportation from Korea. That analysis is ongoing at the moment. So clearly they will take what they need to be effective and they'll fall in on what makes sense to fall in on and that's already in Iraq.

 

            Q: The 34,000 now level in Korea, is that going to be the plateau for the foreseeable future?

 

            Senior Defense Official: You mean the 37,500 minus whatever this number is?

 

            Q: Yes.

 

            Senior Defense Official: Yes. That's correct.

 

            Q: What are some of these capabilities, we keep hearing this. More JDAMS, or better radar or what?

 

            Senior Defense Official: When the Deputy Secretary was in Seoul I believe it was June of 2003 and we had our meetings he announced, and I believe General LaPorte in Korea had the week before announced that over a three to four year period we would be investing $11 billion on the Korean Peninsula and in the region so forces ready or capabilities ready to assist. It runs the gamut from, for example, we're deploying in the normal course of enhancing our capabilities there a Patriot brigade, PAC-III. So essentially you're getting state of the art, you're getting a brigade headquarters, you're getting new Patriot capability, you're getting, for example, on a rotational basis you're getting Stryker battalions coming into Korea, again on a rotational basis. You're getting additions to probably in the billions of dollars of new C4I capabilities on the Peninsula until we have additional capabilities there.

 

            In the area we're bringing new capabilities to Hawaii, Guam, Japan, so that when we step back and look at this $11 billion commitment I think that the Korean government was extremely pleased that we were showing that degree of commitment to additional capabilities.

 

            We stressed that these were additional capabilities.

 

            Q: What about homeporting a carrier in Guam? Is that part of the additional capabilities?

 

            Senior Defense Official: No, not to my knowledge.

 

            Q: Can I return to this issue of whether the 3600 are going to be replaced or not? Is this going to be essentially a ten percent drawdown in the number of U.S. troops in South Korea for the long term future or for the foreseeable future? These 3600 are not being replaced, correct?

 

            Senior Defense Official: I would put it this way. The 3600 are rotating to Iraq. They're on a rotational assignment. The decision of whether they will come back to Korea or whether a brigade in rotation would come back to Korea will be made during the period of time they're in Iraq. So what I'm suggesting is there isn't necessarily an immediate fall in behind this brigade, but there isn't a decision to not replace them either.

 

            Q: So for at least the next year there's going to be a ten percent reduction.

 

            Senior Defense Official: Not necessarily. A decision has yet to be made.

 

            Senior Military Official: I think it's important to acknowledge that we measure capabilities in the context of a joint force now. So while it is convenient and it's traditional to sort of compare brigades to brigades and carrier strike groups to carrier strike groups, when you look at this more broadly the question is what is the array of capabilities that's out there from a warfighting perspective? So as you're aware, there are for example, there is additional aviation capability currently in theater, and other adjustments will and can be made that will certainly and no one should have any doubt, will maintain the level of deterrence that currently exists such that there will be no misunderstanding on the part of potential adversaries.

 

            Q: How long is 37,000 --

 

            Q: -- Republic of Korea troops will be moving into the area that the 2nd Brigade is coming out of? Republic of Korea troops will be going in and filling in? That's their warfighting position.

 

            Senior Defense Official: Yes, I think that -- There's time to make these adjustments in Korea. I will defer to [USFK] on that. That's the question that should probably be asked of the [USFK].

 

            Q: How long has the 37,000 been maintained in the country?

 

            Senior Defense Official: We've been at that strength level for at least something like 15 years.

 

            Q: The Stryker brigade rotations, when do you envision those to begin in Korea?

 

            Senior Defense Official: I believe that what's been announced is that Stryker battalions will begin rotating in there. I do not know if a specific date for an entire brigade has been established. They've actually done, shortly after we announced this $11 billion worth of enhancement we began doing things like flying in Stryker companies. So these things that we committed to do back a year and a half ago or a little over a year ago, I guess, began actually in the fall. For example, some of the PAC-IIIs I believe have arrived or will soon arrive. So the process of this $11 billion commitment in capability has already begun to play out.

 

            Q: Sir, if by taking this brigade out of Korea you're not impacting the deterrence at all why would you possibly need to send them back there? If there's no impact on deterrence.

 

            Senior Defense Official: I'm only making the distinction that a decision has not been made whether or not that brigade goes back or not.

 

            Q: But it would be superfluous deterrence to just have them back from Iraq and you're already, as you say, in a steady state of deterrence and you're not being impacted at all. If that's what you're saying here why would you need them to go back to then add on to a capability that you're already meeting?

 

            Senior Defense Official: I just don't want to pre-judge what the situation might be in the future. We know what the situation is now. There's no way for us to judge what it might be a year from now.

 

            I think the key thing is whatever the deterrent requirement is, we are in a position now to maintain that requirement, and if additional deterrent capability is required we have the ability to flow enhancements into the area and we'll do so. I think that's the key statement and the key issue here.

 

            Q: General, the balance of the 20,000, will they stay up to a year as well do you think?

 

            Senior Military Official: The format is up to a year, certainly for Army forces. The Marines are on a somewhat lesser tour length. Currently it's seven months. But the bottom line is up to 12 months is the operative --

 

            Q: Any sense when you're going to announce the remaining 20,000?

 

            Q: Is OIF-3 going to be comparable to OIF-2 in the volume of troops flowing in and out?

 

            Senior Military Official: We will maintain at about the 135,000 to 138,000 level that we talked about recently. And what we are trying to do actually is spread out the rotation such that it is not such a demand on transportation assets and it maintains better continuity on the ground.

 

            So instead of doing it in four months as we did this time, we'll do it from roughly September until February or March of '05, over a period of six or seven months. The physics of it are that that is more manageable from the transportation point of view and likewise makes it more manageable in terms of not turning over the force over a much briefer period of time.

 

            Q: (inaudible) -- a situation where you have to turn to these forces because you didn't have comparable forces available elsewhere.

 

            Senior Military Official: There are certainly comparable forces available. The question is, as you balance what's out there, who are the best candidates? From an institutional point of view what makes the most sense in terms of experience in the force. We clearly have moved ahead on the global posture initiative, consultations have been ongoing for a while. So the traditional notion that all the forces, whether they be Army or Air Force or Navy were not available is no longer the operative notion. This is a question again of equivalent capabilities and so on. So given the advance of the discussions in the Western Pacific they were available, they have not been to Iraq as yet, this is a fully capable unit, and we do not have to send back a unit that might have been, for example, just returned off of OIF-1. When you balance all these things the right candidate to go, provided the government to government consultations and so on, was an effective situation was 2/2. That's where we are.

 

            Q: Sir, what about Marines? Why not extend their tours if they're only there for seven months? Has that been discussed?

 

            Senior Military Official: The situation is that it's 12 and 12 for the Army; it's seven and seven for the Marines. So dwell time from the perspective of the length of time people stay at home before they deploy again, it is equivalent. Our wartime criteria, as has been mentioned before, is one to one. In other words, a unit has as much time at home after deployment as they spend in Iraq or Afghanistan deployed. So the truth of the matter is that while it is a briefer deployment period, it's still seven and seven. Not seven and 12. Seven and seven. So it is equivalent for both the Army and the Marines. That's not to say that there isn't consideration to looking at the Marines tour length because there is. Frankly, there is.

 

            Q: Are you looking at it now?

 

            Senior Military Official: We are.

 

            Q: Are you thinking about extending it to 12 months?

 

            Senior Military Official: I think it is under evaluation on what the optimal tour lengths for everyone ought to be. Whether it's more than 12, less than 12, and so on. The main consideration has to do with the kind of duty, has to do with the location, it has to do with the demographics of the force and so on.

 

            Q: and the forces in the Balkans, are you looking at taking those out at any time in the near future?

 

            Senior Military Official: I think it is clear that we are looking to have our allies in Europe, both NATO and EU, pick up as much of that responsibility as is possible, and we'll see how that plays out.

 

            Q: What's your message to North Korea?

 

            Senior Defense Official: I think we've been very consistent with our message. Indeed, since we began the [FOTA] process and since we began talking about enhancements out there, the message to the North Koreans has been very clear. It isn't a numbers issue, it's a capabilities issue. And we've stressed that to them. We've actually seen them react from time to time about capabilities. So they get the message that our deterrent power in the region and on the Peninsula has actually been enhanced by these. They've watched our moves and watched what comes on the Peninsula very carefully and have reacted to it, so I believe they're getting the message on what our capabilities are.

 

            Q: What if they get the message that this is a sign of weakness?

 

            Senior Defense Official: I would hope not. I would hope they would look at what's happening --

 

            Senior Military Official: That would be a misperception on the part of the North Koreans, let me put it that way.

 

            Senior Defense Official: I don't believe they'll get that message. Again, certainly they understand how our capabilities in the region and on the Peninsula have increased and I don't believe that they'll take that message away. If they do, it's a mistake.

 

            Q: Will there be any reconfiguration or resources or personnel or equipment in the rest of the region, particularly Japan?

 

            Senior Defense Official: No, there's no such existing, no.

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