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McHugh looks to ramp up Pacific partnerships

May. 6, 2013 - 10:08AM   |  
John McHugh
The Army is absorbing budget cuts in a multitude of areas, said Army Secretary John McHugh, but engagements with militaries in the Pacific is not one of them. (Ron Edmonds / The Associated Press)
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As the Army looks beyond current conflicts to the future role of land forces, it is a “full partner” in efforts underway to develop operating concepts in the region, the Army secretary said April 30.

“We’re talking about how do the ground forces … posture themselves as a viable part of the national military strategy going forward,” Secretary John McHugh told reporters in Washington, D.C. “We envision it as a complement, not a competition.”

The Army is entering a partnership with the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command in the developing Office of Strategic Landpower.

The effort is not in competition with efforts to develop the Navy- and Air Force-centric Air-Sea Battle, McHugh said.

What emerges from the Office of Strategic Landpower would be to the use of ground forces and projection of power “what Air-Sea Battle was three or four years ago,” he said.

The Army is absorbing budget cuts in a multitude of areas, but engagements with militaries in the Pacific is not one of them, McHugh said.

“We, unlike some of the other services, have not cut back our planned engagements in 2014, [and we] have fully funded those,” McHugh said.

There are 24 bilateral operations that are expected to go forward in 2014, McHugh said.

The Army recently announced plans to elevate the Army commander in the Pacific to a four-star billet so the person in that position has enough rank to engage other military leaders in the Pacific Rim, he said. Of the 27 nations in the Pacific, 21 have militaries led by Army officers.

“We have steadily engaged in the Pacific,” McHugh said. “Just last year, I was in Mongolia, where the Alaska [National] Guard has had an ongoing partnership with Mongolian soldiers.”

As McHugh spoke about the Pacific and the Army’s future role as part of the national defense strategy, he pointed to these engagements as a key piece.

“There’s a lot of air, a lot of sea in the Pacific, but what is important is what brushes up against it, and that is shoreline,” McHugh said. “What people fail to talk about in Air-Sea Battle is the best strategy. The best concept is the one that keeps you out of war. A very active piece of this concept that talks about building partner capacity, strengthening alliances and building new ones.”

The concept of anti-access, area denial in the context of the Pacific is “a very important part of any defense strategy going forward,” McHugh said.A2/AD refers to enemies attacking airfields, ports and land bases, blocking sea lanes and denying the use of critical airspace — essentially pushing forces too far from the battlefield to be effective.

Asked about the investment of missile defense to support the concept, McHugh noted that the Army’s role has been emphasized recently.

In early April, it was announced a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense would be deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Guam, and a Fort Sill, Okla., Patriot missile unit was deployed to Turkey’s border with Syria.

“Those are the kinds of things, given the size of the territory involved, that our commanders in the Pacific are looking at,” McHugh said.

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