Thurman: Keep Accompanied Korea Tours at Current Level
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2012 Family-member-accompanied tours for U.S. service members in South Korea should not expand beyond the roughly 4,600 family members now authorized, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea told Congress today.
Army Gen. James D. Thurman testified alongside Peter R. Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, before the House Armed Services Committee today on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Given continued uncertainty on the peninsula and ongoing budget constraints, the general said, it’s essential to maintain U.S. force readiness at its highest level, “given our requirement to ‘fight tonight.’”
During his confirmation hearing before he took command of U.S. military forces in Korea, Congress asked him to assess tour normalization and force relocation, Thurman noted.
“It is my assessment that expanding tour normalization beyond our current authorization of 4,645 family members is unaffordable under the current construct,” he said.
Force relocation plans are on track, Thurman said, adding that he will continue to assess them to ensure they place the right capabilities in the right places to meet operational requirements.
Defense Department officials have considered “tour normalization” in South Korea for a number of years. Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in July 2010 that he was considering a two-year tour for single service members and a three-year tour for troops accompanied by their families.
Gates cautioned at the time, however, that the infrastructure such tours would require -- such as schools, hospitals and commissaries -- would make the change an expensive one.