U.S. Forces, Korea / Combined Forces Command
Combined Ground Component Command (GCC)
The longtime U.S. security commitment to the Republic of Korea (ROK) has both legal and moral sanctions. US legal obligations are those under U.N. Security Council Resolutions of 1950, by which the US leads the United Nations Command, and the ROK/US Mutual Security Agreement of 1954, which commits both nations to assist each other in case of attack from outside forces. The US is also partner in the operations of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command (CFC), an integrated headquarters established in 1978, and is responsible for planning for the defense of the Republic of Korea. The Commander of USFK also serves as Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command (CINCUNC) and the CFC. As CINCUNC, he is responsible for maintaining the armistice agreement which suspended the Korean War on July 27, 1953.
US Forces, Korea (USFK) is the joint headquarters through which US combat forces would be sent to the CFC's fighting components - the Ground, Air, Naval and Combined Marine Forces Component Commands. Major USFK Elements include the Eighth US Army, US Air Forces Korea (Seventh Air Force) and US Naval Forces Korea. USFK includes more than 85 active installations in the Republic of Korea and has about 37,500 US military personnel assigned in Korea. Major U.S. units in the ROK include the Eighth U.S. Army and Seventh Air Force.
Principal equipment in EUSA includes 140 M1A1 tanks, 170 Bradley armored vehicles, 30 155mm self-propelled howitzers, 30 MRLs as well as a wide range of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, e.g., Patriot, and 70 AH-64 helicopters. EUSA has the capability to perform required tasks under various circumstances using this equipment.
US Air Forces Korea possesses approximately 100 aircraft: advanced fighters, e.g., 70 F-16s, 20 A-10 anti-tank attack planes, various types of intelligence-collecting and reconnaissance aircraft including U-2s, and the newest transport aircraft. With this highly modern equipment, US Air Forces Korea has sufficient capability to launch all-weather attacks and to conduct air support operations under all circumstances. In the event the Seventh Fleet and the Seventh Air Force Command augment them, the capability of USFK will substantially increase both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Limited manpower and equipment are allocated to US Naval Forces Korea, US Marine Forces Korea, and Special Operations Command Korea in peacetime. However, the US Pacific Command will augment these forces and commands should a crisis or war erupt, thus providing them with a higher combat capability.
Combined Forces Command (CFC)
The role of Combined Forces Command (CFC) during the armistice is to deter war. CFC's wartime role is to defeat external aggression. Its mission statement is: "Deter hostile acts of external aggression against the Republic of Korea by a combined military effort of the United States of America and the ROK; and in the event deterrence fails, defeat an external armed attack against the ROK." The CFC is commanded by a US general officer that who reports to the National Command Authorities of both countries. CFC's military power resides collectively in the ROK Armed Forces, US Forces in Korea, and US augmentation from the Pacific and the United States. The security cooperation between the US and the ROK is extensive. Some of its key elements are combined defense planning, intelligence integration and sharing, a sophisticated logistical interface, educational exchanges, and defense industry cooperation.
Decades of fragile peace marked the history of "post-war" Korea, where the longest armistice ever remains tenuously in force. For most of these years, the directing headquarters was the United Nations Command (UNC), which had also directed combat operations in the 1950-53 war. The defense structure in Korea was eventually overtaken by the professional growth and development of the Republic of Korea's (ROK) armed forces. As early as 1965 it was recognized that what worked in the war could be significantly improved by increasing ROK participation in the planning structure.
A combined operational planning staff, developed in 1968 as an adjunct to United Nations Command/United States Forces Korea/ Eighth United States Army Headquarters and the U.S.-led 'I' Corps (Group), evolved in 1971 as an integrated field army headquarters. However, it was not until 1978, as a bilateral agreement related to the planned U.S. ground combat force withdrawal of that time (subsequently canceled in 1981), that the senior headquarters in Korea was organized, as a combined staff.
Established on November 7, 1978, the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) is the warfighting headquarters. Its role is to deter, or defeat if necessary, outside aggression against the ROK. To accomplish that mission, the CFC has operational control over more than 600,000 active-duty military personnel of all services, of both countries. In wartime, augmentation could include some 3.5 million ROK reservists as well as additional U.S. forces deployed from outside the ROK. If North Korea attacked, the CFC would provide a coordinated defense through its Air, Ground, Naval and Combined Marine Forces Component Commands and the Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force. In-country and augmentation U.S. forces would be provided to the CFC for employment by the respective combat component.
The CFC is commanded by a four-star U.S. general, with a four-star ROK Army general as deputy commander. Throughout the command structure, binational manning is readily apparent: if the chief of a staff section is Korean, the deputy is American and vice versa. This integrated structure exists within the component commands as well as the headquarters. All CFC components are tactically integrated through continuous combined and joint planning, training and exercises.
The US took operational control [OPCON] of South Korean forces during the Korean War back in the early 1950s. Peacetime control was returned in 1994, and the South Korean military is set to achieve full autonomy when it takes over wartime operational control. Until 1994 a U.S. four star Commander operationally controlled the ROK military in peacetime, as well as in potential wartime. On conclusion of negotiations in 1994, peacetime operational control (OPCON) of the Republic of Korea military was transferred from the U.S. led Combined Forces Command, to the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff (ROK JCS). Since 1994, the Republic of Korea and the United States have discussed and negotiated the next logical step in Alliance command arrangements, the full transfer of wartime operational control of ROK military forces from the U.S. led Combined Forces Command to a new ROK Joint Forces Command (JFC).
By 2005 Seoul had requested regaining wartime control of its armed forces. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Kwang-ung discussed the wartime operational command at the 32nd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) held in Seoul in October 2005. Defense Minister Yoon said "The issue of wartime command transfer will become one of the main issues to be discussed at SCM." The defense chiefs discussed transferring wartime command of the nation's troops back to Seoul during the annual security consultations. Wartime operational control was part of a much broader discussion of command relationships. Seoul regained the right to control its armed forces in peacetime in 1994. Wartime command was originally transferred to the US-led United Nations Command in 1950.
Final negotiations to set a date for this transition were agreed to in 2007, with a ROK military OPCON transition from CFC to the ROK JFC date set for 17 April 2012. To achieve realignment of responsibilities in the transition of wartime OPCON in 2012, the ROK and U.S. militaries completed a transition road map - the Strategic Transition Plan (STP) - signed in 2007, identifying requirements and milestones for the next five years. Prior to the ROK assuming wartime operational control of its own forces in 2012, U.S. and ROK planners will develop new terms of reference, crisis action standard operating procedures, wartime command and control procedures, and operational plans through formal alliance consultative processes, such as the bi-monthly Security Policy Initiative and the annual Security Consultative and Military Committee Meetings.
Meeting at the G-20 economic summit in Toronto om 26 June 2010, President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed to delay the current April 17, 2012, date to December 2015. The postponement of the so-called OPCON plan "reflects the current security condition on the Korean peninsula and will strengthen the alliance of the two nations," Lee was quoted by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency in a joint press conference with Obama after the summit.
Talks on transferring the wartime operational control of South Korean forces from Washington to Seoul were underway in early August 2014, by which time it looked like the transfer will be delayed by five years, to 2020. Delegations led by Korea's Deputy Defense Minister Ryu Je-seung and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey met in Washington to discuss the appropriate timing. Sources there said they agree South Korea's military needed more time to bolster its defense and other capabilities to counter threats posed by North Korea.
This meeting was crucial as it could be the last round of talks before the two allies announce their agreement at their annual defense ministerial meeting in Washington in October 2014. But following Pyongyang's third nuclear test in February 2013, Seoul asked Washington to delay the transfer. South Korea's Defense Minister Han Min-koo had also been pointing to the changing circumstances behind Seoul's request, emphasizing that North Korea has been carrying out realistic drills since Kim Jong-un took power in 2012.
Combined Ground Component Command (GCC)
The Combined Ground Component Command (GCC) is led by the Commander-in-Chief (CinC) of the Combined Forces of Command and his staff. The Combined Field Army (CFA) was composed of the US Second Infantry Division, the Third Republic of Korea Army (TROKA) and the Seventh Republic of Korea Corps. The Capital Defense Command (CDC) is an independent command within the TROKA's area of responsibility, defends the metropolitan Seoul, home to ten million Koreans. The CFA, CDC and the First Republic of Korea Army (FROKA) form the Combined Ground Component Command (GCC).
In April 1990, the United States Department of Defense announced a program to shift gradually the United States military presence in South Korea to a smaller and more supportive role as international political conditions and strengthened South Korean defense capabilities permitted. As part of this program, the United States and South Korea also agreed to disband the United States- Republic of Korea Combined Field Army and to separate the Ground Component Command from the Combined Forces Command during the 1991-1993 period. The two countries further agreed to appoint a South Korean senior officer as commander of the Ground Component Command.
In the joint statement issued after the close of the twenty-third United States Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting in November 1991, both countries declared that they had "agreed to postpone the second stage reduction of United States forces in Korea until such time as the North Korean threat and uncertainties of developing nuclear weapons have disappeared and the security in this region is fully guaranteed." This fact meant that withdrawals would stop once United States forces were drawn down to the 36,000 target for stage one. It was also confirmed at the meeting that the United States Republic of Korea Combined Field Army would be dissolved and that a Korean general would be made Combined Forces Command ground component commander in 1992, further decreasing the United States Profile.
Despite the impression of total American control of Republic of Korea armed forces via CFC, the Korean units are independent forces. Only during time of war, does the Korean units subject itself to the CFC. Otherwise, Korean military operate independent of CFC in peacetime.
The major field training exercise was the Team Spirit series that began in 1976 and grew to nearly 200,000 ROK and U.S. participants commensurate with increased perceptions of the North Korean threat. U.S. participation in the exercise included augmentation forces of all services tactically deployed to the ROK from other Pacific bases and the continental United States. This exercise was last held in 1993.
Separate ROK and U.S. command post exercises were combined as Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL) in 1976. UFL is an annual joint and combined simulation-supported command post exercise that trains Combined Forces Command personnel and major component, subordinate and augmenting staffs using state-of-the-art wargaming computer simulations and support infrastructures.
At the unit level, frequent no-notice alerts, musters, and operational readiness inspections insure combat preparedness for ROK and U.S. forces. Both countries are pursuing ambitious modernization programs to maintain a viable ROK/U.S. military posture that will convince North Korea that any form of aggression or adventurism will fail. The ROK is making strides in equipment improvement through a rapidly expanding domestic defense industry, as well as purchases from foreign sources. U.S. efforts toward modernization include newer, more powerful weapon systems, greater mobility and helicopter lift capability, and vastly increased anti-armor capability.
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