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US Pacific Command (PACOM)

The U.S. Pacific Command is unified command which includes about 300,000 military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps (about 20 percent of all active duty U.S. military forces). These forces are in three categories: Forward Deployed (about 100,000), Forward Based and CONUS (Continental U.S.) Based which comprise the remainder. In addition to its assigned units, Pacific Command can activate, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, a number of joint task force headquarters to respond to contingencies. Though not standing, these joint task force headquarters have established numerical designations, all in the 500s, depending on the unit placed in command. The use of numerical designators in the 500s is related to the assignment of the number 5 to Pacific Command for operational planning per the Unified Command Plan. All of Pacific Command's operational plans are numbered in the 5000s.

The Obama Administration's ‘rebalancing’ was carried forward by the United States Navy and Marine Corps in their jointly released March 2015 United States Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power (Revised), CS21R. The strategy is a reworked version of 2007 strategy. CS21R purports to prepare U.S. naval and marine forces for ultimate encounter with China in the Pacific (South China Sea). It seeks ‘forward, engaged and ready’ posture for U.S. forces. To that end the United States banks on support of regional allies. The logistic supplies including basing facilities by these partners are critical components of the U.S. maritime strategy.

On April 17, 2002 Defense officials announced changes in the Unified Command Plan. U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) will help European Command with the far eastern part of Russia and will add Antarctica to its area of responsibility. One anomaly is Alaska. NORTHCOM will cover the state, but the troops based there will be earmarked for PACOM.

U.S. Pacific Command was established as a unified command on January 1, 1947 as an outgrowth of the command structure used during World War II. The command is the oldest and largest of the United States' nine unified commands. The present U.S. Pacific Command includes areas originally assigned to two other unified commanders. Responsibilities of the Far East Command were assumed on July 1, 1957. That same day the command assumed some of the responsibilities of the Alaskan Command and individual Army and Air Force component commands for the Pacific were established in Hawaii.

In October 1957, the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters was moved from Makalapa (near Pearl Harbor Naval Base) to Camp H.M. Smith, location for the headquarters of the Commander, Marine Forces Pacific. USCINCPAC also served as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, until January 1958, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet became a separate component.

Added responsibilities were assigned to USCINCPAC on January 1, 1972 for military forces and elements in the Indian Ocean, Southern Asia and the Arctic. The AOR was further expanded on May 1, 1976 to the east coast of Africa. Another enlargement took place in October 1983, when USCINCPAC was assigned responsibility for the People's Republic of China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolian People's Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Madagascar.

The most recent enlargement of the AOR occurred on July 7, 1989, when Alaskan Command was reestablished at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska as a subordinate unified command. This placed the defense of Alaska and its surrounding waters under the leadership of one commander, providing a unity of command absent from the state since the early 1970s.

The Unified Command Plans of 1989 and 1996 slightly reduced USCINCPAC's area of responsibility. In August 1989, with the focus of attention shifting to the Middle East, responsibility for the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden was transferred to the U.S. Central Command. On Jan 1, 1996, the Seychelles and its adjacent waters was also assigned to Central Command.

Located at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, the headquarters staff consists of about 530 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel, plus about 110 civil service employees. About 1,500 people belong to additional support units located in Hawaii and throughout the Command's Area of Responsibility (AOR). These units include the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the Information Systems Support Activity, Pacific Automated Server Site Japan, Cruise Missile Support Activity, Special Intelligence Communications, Joint Intelligence Center Pacific, Joint Intelligence Training Activity Pacific, Joint Interagency Task Force West, and Joint Task Force Full-Accounting.

In November 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coined the by now famous “pivot to Asia”. The pivot included “Six lines of action”. Four of these derived from a 2009 report by the Washington think tank CSIS; reinvigorating alliances; cultivating relationships with emerging powers; developing relationships with regional multilateral bodies; and working closely with South East Asian countries on economic issues. Clinton added two more: broad-based military presence in Asia, and the promotion of democracy and human rights. It was clear from the start that the “pivot” was code for an effort to contain China's military. At this geopolitical moment when a South East Asian dispute over maritime territory intersected with the across-the-globe confrontation between the hegemon and a “peer competitor” Clinton meant by “engaging emerging powers” was, in her own words, “join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order”. Soem saw this as code for rules coined by the hegemon – as in the whole apparatus of the Washington consensus.




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