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Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM)
US Pacific Command (PACOM)

On 30 May 2018 PACOM changed its name as well as its commander. “In recognition of the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific oceans, today we rename the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command,” Mattis said. “Over many decades this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstances and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.” The announcement was made by the US Defence Secretary James N. Mattis during the change of command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, wherein Admiral Phil Davidson replaced Admiral Harry Harris as Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command.

USINDOPACOM protects and defends, in concert with other U.S. Government agencies, the territory of the United States, its people, and its interests. With allies and partners, USINDOPACOM is committed to enhancing stability in the Indo-Pacific region by promoting security cooperation, encouraging peaceful development, responding to contingencies, deterring aggression, and, when necessary, fighting to win. This approach is based on partnership, presence, and military readiness.

The move is reflective of the growing importance of the Indian Ocean in US strategic thinking. It also recognises India’s growing role in providing regional security. The name change is largely symbolic as India is already considered as part of PACOM’s area of responsibility which also includes China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, Australia, Antarctica and the entire Pacific Ocean. The move signals towards the 2018 National Defence Strategy of the United States which acknowledges Pacific challenges and signals America's lasting commitment to the Indo-Pacific. However, for now, the name change will not immediately result in any shifts in the command’s boundaries or assets across the vast area stretching from the western part of India to America’s Pacific coastline.

The US Indo-Pacific Command is the oldest and largest among the six geographic Unified Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces and is responsible for the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The Command has about 375000 civilian and military personnel assigned to its area of responsibility, which covers about half of the Earth's surface, stretching from the waters off the US West Coast to the western border of India and from Antarctica to the North Pole. The 36 countries that comprise the Asia-Pacific region are home to more than 50 percent of the world's population, several of the world's largest militaries; and 5 nations has allied with the US through mutual defense treaties.

US Pacific Fleet consists of approximately 200 ships, nearly 1100 aircraft, and more than 130000 sailors dedicated to protect mutual security interests. USINDOPACOM headquarters is located in the Nimitz-MacArthur Building on Camp H.M. Smith just outside of Honolulu, Hawaii.

The U.S. Pacific Command was 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 was 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 was 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 was 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 was 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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