WASHINGTON, May 18, 2012 — With clear direction from President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the new U.S. Pacific Command chief said he’s using the new strategic guidance as a roadmap as he sets priorities and engages with the region.
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Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, who assumed his post in March, said he feels fortunate to have taken command when the strategic guidance succinctly defines leadership emphasis and priorities across his vast area of responsibility.
“Every military commander wants to know what is expected of him or her and how to proceed toward the future,” Locklear said during an interview with American Forces Press Service. “So the president and the secretary of defense have given me through their strategic guidance clear direction on what they want [and] what they expect to see.”
The 14-page strategic guidance, released in January, recognizes challenges as well as opportunities in a region that covers 52 percent of the earth’s surface and includes some 3.6 billion people in 36 nations. Asia and the Pacific, Locklear noted, represent half the world’s trade, a transit point for most of its energy supplies, and home to three of the world’s largest economies and most of its major militaries.
“I think the strategy is recognition that we, as an American people, are a Pacific nation,” as well as an Atlantic nation, the admiral said. “We are a Pacific nation, and what happens in the Asia-Pacific matters to us. And this strategy helps reemphasize that.”
In implementing the new guidance, Locklear has outlined five basic priorities for Pacom:
— Strengthen and advance alliances and partnerships;
— Mature the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship;
— Develop the U.S.-India strategic partnership;
— Remain prepared to respond to a Korean Peninsula contingency; and
— Counter transnational threats.
Alliances and partnerships are key factors for regional security and stability, Locklear said. He vowed to work to strengthen the United States’ alliances with South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and Thailand.
“These alliances are historic,” he said. “They underpin our strategy in the region and they underpin the security arrangements in the region.”
Locklear noted promising developments within these alliances, such as the new Marine rotations in Australia and improving special operations and counterterrorism capabilities in the Philippines’ armed forces.
Pacom also will focus on establishing and building partnerships with other nations that share the United States’ interest in security and economic prosperity and increasingly, human rights, he said.
“We are going to put more time and effort into making sure that those relationships are built for the future,” the admiral said.
Locklear recognized the United States’ already-strong military-to-military ties with Singapore and its “very much improving” relationships with Indonesia.
In addition, the United States wants a long-term strategic relationship with India, a large regional democracy and rising economic power that’s also increasing in military capability.
“We hope to partner with them to share the strategic landscape as it applies to how we apply security to the globe that allows prosperity and peace, freedom of movement and allows prosperity in the world,” the admiral said.
Locklear said he also hopes to strengthen military-to-military relations with China. China is an emerging power with many significant decisions to make, he said, adding that the United States would like to play a role in helping influence those decisions in a way that promotes a secure global environment.
“One way to do that is to communicate better,” Locklear said. “The last thing you want to have is miscalculation between large militaries.”
One way to build trust and confidence between those militaries, Locklear said, is through military-to-military operations.
“You learn to operate together, you learn to cooperate, you learn about each other’s families. You get a personal view of each other” that can pay off in helping resolve any differences that may arise.
Locklear said North Korea looms as the most-pressing trouble spot. Its new, untested leader and its pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and world pressure create a tenuous, unstable situation.
“If there is anything that keeps me awake at night, it’s that particular situation,” the admiral said. “We have to ensure that we maintain as much of a stable environment on the Korean Peninsula as we can.”
Transnational threats pose another concern and area of emphasis for Pacom. Locklear identified cyber threats as the most daunting, noting the importance of secure networks not only for Pacom’s military operations, but also for regional stability and economic viability.
The admiral said his command’s Cyber Pacific organization is working closely with U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command to identify better ways to defend Pacom’s networks.
“No matter what happens out there on the Internet and Facebook, we still have to be able to operate the networks that allow us to produce combat power,” Locklear said. “And so one of my priority jobs is to ensure those [command] networks will survive when they have to survive.”
Terrorism is another major concern for Pacom, the admiral said, as violent extremists increasingly seek safe havens in the Asia-Pacific region. Locklear said he recognizes the need to continue adapting U.S. forces to deal with the challenge.
“In the terrorist world, as you squeeze on one side of the balloon, it pops out somewhere else. [Terrorists] look for areas of opportunity. And they find areas of opportunity in places that are disenfranchised, that have poor economies and opportunity to change the mindset of the people looking for a better life but don’t know how to get it.”
Locklear said the kind of environment the United States and its allies and partners in the region are working to promote is the best response.
“In the long run, the solution for that, I think, is prosperity, and the general sense of security that makes it so that these terrorist organizations can’t thrive.”
Locklear also noted the problem of narcotics, particularly methamphetamine production in the region, which provides the financing for terrorists to operate.
“We are seeing an increasing amount of that activity. And that money, we know, goes to the terrorist organizations,” he said. “So we are going to have to make sure we keep our focus pretty tightly on this, because that transnational threat is equal or more damaging to our national security than any of the others.”
In leading Pacom’s response to these threats, Locklear noted the positive impact of more than six decades of U.S. presence in the region.
“The U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific has provided the security infrastructure that basically underpins the security environment which has led to an environment that allowed … emerging economies [and] emerging nations to thrive — from Japan to Korea to Australia to the Philippines to China, to the U.S.,” Locklear said. “We are part of that.”
Pacom’s activities today will have a long-term impact for the future, the admiral said.
“We have tremendous interest that will carry forward, not just to the near term, but to our children and our grandchildren and their children,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)