- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

HONOLULU — Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is planning a sweeping revision of the command apparatus through which U.S. military forces are controlled in Asia, in an effort to make them more responsive to contingencies from the Koreas to Australia.

Military officers said the revision would take place primarily in South Korea and Japan, but would affect deployments throughout the Pacific Command’s area of responsibility, which runs from the West Coast across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to East Africa.

From its headquarters overlooking Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, it controls 300,000 military people and is the largest combatant command of the U.S. armed forces.

Among the command elements that will most likely be dismantled in South Korea are the U.N. Command (UNC), U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), the Combined Forces Command (CFC), and the Eighth U.S. Army. In Japan, United States Forces Japan (USFJ) will disappear, but a new operational corps headquarters led by a lieutenant general will be set up.

In addition, the position of the four-star general who commands the UNC, USFK and CFC will be abolished. At the same time, plans call for establishing a new billet for an Army four-star general at the headquarters of the U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in Hawaii. He will take control of Army forces in the Pacific region now under the command of a three-star general.

In response to a query, the spokesman for the Pacific Command, Navy Capt. John Singley said: “The Pacific Command is currently reviewing plans to strengthen our defense posture as part of a larger U.S. government global effort in that regard. We are currently consulting with our allies and partners in the region and will continue to do so before any decisions are made.”

“Some of these plans are near-term,” Capt. Singley said. “Others are further in the future. The aim of the global-posture review is to strengthen our defense relationships with key allies and partners, improve flexibility, enable action regionally and globally, exploit advantages in rapid power projection, and focus on overall capabilities instead of numbers.”

Officers informed of the shakeup pointed to Mr. Rumsfeld’s wider plan to “transform” the Pentagon and the armed forces.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith told an audience in Washington in December: “A key facet of transformation is realigning our global defense posture. That is, updating the types, locations, numbers and capabilities of our military forces and the nature of our alliances.”

In Asia, the officers said, the intent was to eliminate crisscrossing chains of command that are legacies of World War II, the occupation of Japan, the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, and the Cold War, which ended in 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed.

These officers asked not to be identified because the review is still in process and no decisions have been made.

“When we get through,” said one officer, “it will be seamless.”

By removing layers of the current cumbersome military bureaucracy, they suggested, troops and ships and aircraft would be able to respond more quickly to any crisis on orders from the president and secretary of defense.

In addition, the revisions are intended to appeal to South Korean nationalism and to tamp down rising anti-Americanism. The United States and South Korea have already announced that the U.S. headquarters will move from a congested area in Seoul to a new site about 75 miles to the south. The 2nd Infantry Division will move from the heavily populated area north of Seoul to new bases farther south.

Disbanding the CFC is intended to lessen South Korean complaints that it diminishes Korean sovereignty, said officers with experience there.

The CFC controls both South Korean and U.S. forces, but is led by a U.S. general with a Korean general as second in command. Many Koreans have argued that it is their country and they furnish the bulk of the forces, and therefore, a Korean should command.

“This would reduce the misperception that the U.S. controls the Korean military,” said an officer. It might also take away a North Korean charge that South Korean forces are lackeys of the Americans.

Disbanding the UNC, Mr. Feith said, “will undoubtedly be part of the whole discussion that we have regarding the realignment of our posture in Korea.”

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