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Newsletter 10-12
December 2009

U.S. Pacific Command: A Command of Partnership, Readiness and Presence

Michael J. Silva, Interagency Senior Military Analyst at the Center for Army Lessons Learned

Admiral Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), outlined the command's strategy and discussed current Asia-Pacific topics with the Pentagon press corps on 22 July 2009. USPACOM is the oldest combatant command for the U.S., its presence spanning more than 60 years in the Asia-Pacific region.

USPACOM covers about half the earth's surface with a very diverse range of cultural, social, economic, and geopolitical differences among the countries within its span of influence. Within the geography of USPACOM are 36 countries speaking 3,000 languages, and is home to over half the world's population. USPACOM's area of responsibility (AOR) includes the world's most populous nation (China), along with two of the four largest economies in the world. Conversely, the AOR also contains 10 of the 14 smallest economies in the world; the largest Muslim-majority nation (Indonesia), and the world's largest democracy (India).

Graphic showing USPACOM area of responsibility

Trade is the keystone to prosperity within the Asia-Pacific region and a significant contributor to world economic output. Asia's trade with the U.S. is currently in excess of $1 trillion. Trade within the region is also vital to regional economies, increasing a nation's output, and gaining international economic status. Conflicts can thus arise as trade increases competition between trading partners and cultural rivalries.

Many threats exist within USPACOM's AOR. Terrorist sponsorship by both state and nonstate actors contributes to criminal activity, potential terrorist acts, and the constant fear of terrorists acquiring nuclear technologies or devices. Transnational violent extremism and criminal activity promotes disorder, disrupts stability, and diminishes the advancement of freedom and democracy. Drug trafficking and piracy are also prevalent within the region.

USPACOM exerts influence throughout its AOR using approximately 250,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines within its 4 component commands: U.S. Pacific Fleet; U.S. Pacific Air Forces; U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC); and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. About two thirds of the U.S. Marine Corps' combat strength resides within U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. U.S. Pacific Fleet includes 5 aircraft carrier strike groups, U.S. Pacific Air Forces has 350 aircraft, and USARPAC has 4 Stryker brigades.

Equally important is the command's integration with other U.S. agencies and the command reliance upon bilateral agreements, multinational agreements, and exercises to keep forces ready to respond to potential threats to security, stability, and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bilateral exercises, and other engagements, are cornerstones to the defensive readiness of USPACOM. Examples of bilateral exercises are: Talisman Saber, Cobra Gold, Balikatan, Keen Sword/Keen Edge, Rim Of The Pacific, Ulchi-Focus Lens, and Ichi Ban.

Talisman Saber is a biennial Australian/U.S. exercise providing a key opportunity for combined forces from these two nations to engage in a mid- to high-intensity exercise of combat operations using training areas in Australia. The commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet uses this exercise as a combined task force (CTF) training venue for practicing a short-notice, power-projection, forcible-entry scenario. This exercise trains Australian and U.S. forces in planning and conducting CTF operations leading to increased combat readiness and interoperability.

Cobra Gold is a joint/combined forces training exercise between the U.S., Thailand, and other nations from the Asia-Pacific region. It is designed to improve combat readiness and interoperability between these nations.

A similar goal exists with the Republic of the Philippines and the U.S. through the Balikatan exercises.

Japan's Self Defense Forces and the U.S. conduct a joint, bilateral training exercise titled Keen Sword/Keen Edge for the defense of Japan.

A biennial, large-scale, multinational power projection/sea control exercise called Rim of the Pacific includes the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Chile, and the United Kingdom.

Ichi Ban (one team) is an exercise between the Japanese Army and USARPAC. Each year a different part of the Japanese Army participates. This year's participant is the the Japanese Northern Army Ground Self Defense Force. This year USARPAC exercised its new entity, the contingency command post (CCP), during this staff exercise.

Currently, planning and preparation is ongoing for the annual, large-scale, warfighting command post exercise Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, formerly known as Ulchi-Focus Lens, between ROK forces and the U.S. Combined Forces Command.

All of these exercises, and others not mentioned, prepare and sharpen USPACOM and its component commands for the challenges they face in countering the threats within the region-a command in partnership, readiness, and presence.

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Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012

 
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