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US Military Facilities: Korea

During 2001, the US and the ROK successfully negotiated several important alliance issues. The Special Measures Agreement (SMA), once completed, would significantly increase contributions to the maintenance of US troops on the Peninsula. Under the SMA, the ROK would cover 50 percent of the non-personnel stationing costs for US forces by 2004. The Commander of US Forces Korea (USFK) had also reached a tentative agreement with the ROK government on a Land Partnership Plan (LPP) that would consolidate US force presence. The plan would reduce the number of major US bases in Korea from 41 to 26 while enhancing training and combined warfighting capability. Commander USFK and the ROK Ministry of National Defense had agreed to review the 1990 agreement to relocate Yongsan Army Garrison, the home of USFK, from its location in downtown Seoul.

The environment in Korea presents several unique challenges for the protection of American service members, civilians and family members. While the force protection posture continues to improve, United States Forces Korea has 95 installations across the peninsula, many quite small and remote. Some 95 installations had been organized into 12 "enclaves" for more centralized planning, execution, and coordination of resources and to provide a clear chain of command responsibility.

The Land Partnership Plan was a joint US and ROK solution to these problems. The Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the US Forces Korea (USKF) signed the LPP in March 2002, under which the USFK would reduce the number of its bases from 41 to 23 and return to South Korea roughly 50 percent of the land it was then using, equivalent to some 135 million square meters, by 2011. This included the complete closure of 24 US facilities or compounds within ROK facilities and 4 partial returns of US facilities. It also included 12 new land grants required between 2002 and 2011 to handle the planned movement of US forces.

Most American troops were to be moved out of areas around the capital Seoul by the end of 2007, and all of the US 2nd Infantry Division that was tasked with patrolling the region north of Seoul would be moved south of Seoul by 2008. Existing military facilities at Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys, both located south of Seoul, were to be expanded and upgraded to accept the redeployed forces.

In late March 2002 it was reported that General Thomas A. Schwartz, commander of US Forces in Korea, had announed that the US planned to shut about half of its military bases in South Korea over the coming decade, without reducing the number of troops from the existing 37,000 deployed at the time. About a third of American troops would move, consolidating all American forces at 23 facilities. The $2.5 billion move was intended to return land to South Koreans and to increase the efficiency of American troops. One significant part of the plan was the improvement in the living conditions for US troops. Poor housing conditions had been a notorious part of service in Korea. South Korea agreed to pay $1.12 billion of the $2.5 billion price of the project. When the 10-year project was complete, 25 percent of US troops in South Korea would be able to bring their families with them, versus the existing level of 10 percent. This would still be less than the 75 percent level of troops with families in Japan, Germany and other US bases overseas.

In April 2002 South Korea agreed to contribute about $463 million to US Forces Korea (USFK) for upkeep for the year. During the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in Washington in mid-November 2001, Korea agreed to increase its budget for USFK by 10.4 percent for the year 2002, from $444 million to $490 million. Due to an increase in the proportion of Korea's payment denominated in won (the South Korean national currency), the actual contribution by Korea was reduced to $463 million. The Korean payments for South Korean nationals hired by USFK accounted for almost half of Korea's share.

A senior ranking US military official said on 25 April 2003 that most of the US Forces Korea (USFK) would be moved to Osan-Pyeongtaek area in the long term, heightening the possibility that the headquarters of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command and the United Nations Command (UNC), currently in Yongsan Garrison, would be moved to the area. "There was a long-term vision that has most of the U.S. forces located in the Osan/Pyeongtaek area," said Maj. General James Soligan, Deputy Chief of Staff UNC/USFK to reporters after giving a speech before 250 American Korean War veterans in Seoul. "There are clearly discussions going on, but no decisions have been made. That's a long-term objective." According to Soligan, the USFK hoped to realign and consolidate its bases, then scattered throughout the peninsula, into two major "hubs," one in the Osan-Pyeongtaek area, home of the Osan Air Base, and the other in the Daegu-Busan area, which included Camp Hialeah. It was the first time the USFK indicated a major reshuffle of military base positions. Changes in the existing Land Partnership Plan (LPP) South Korea and the US signed in 2001 to consolidate US military bases were inevitable as a result.

On 3 June 2003, General Leon J. LaPorte the head of US Forces Korea, announced in a forum at the Korean National Assembly that roughly 6,000 of the total 7,000 troops would be relocated. US and Republic of Korea officials agreed to a plan to realign American forces stationed in "The Land of the Morning Calm." In June 4-5 meetings held in the South Korean capital city of Seoul, according to a joint U.S.-South Korean statement, it was decided the operation would consist of 2 phases. During Phase 1 US forces at installations north of the Han River would consolidate in the Camp Casey (Tongduchon) and Camp Red Cloud (Uijongbu) areas. Both bases were north of Seoul and the Han, but well south of the demilitarized zone that separated North and South Korea. The 14,000-strong US Army 2nd Infantry Division, which provided troops to bases near the DMZ, was headquartered at Camp Red Cloud. During Phase 2 US forces north of the Han River would move to key hubs south of the Han River. US and Korean officials agreed to continue rotational US military training north of the Han even after Phase 2 was completed.

In July 2003 the Government Accountability Office released a report on the Land Partnership Plan. It stated that during the initial phase of the review they had identified funding and other management challenges that could adversely affect the implementation of the LPP. It was further recognized that they could also affect the associated US military construction projects throughout South Korea. Firstly, the LPP was dependent on substantial amounts of funding that South Korea expected to realize through land sales from property returned by the United States, host-nation-funded construction, and US military construction funds. While US Forces Korea officials expected to build on this LPP framework for likely additional basing changes, the details had not been finalized for the broader changes. As US Forces Korea would likely revise its plans, competition for limited funding for other priorities was seen as a potential issue. Secondly, US Forces Korea did not have a detailed road map to manage current and future facilities requirements in South Korea.

The GAO concluded that available data indicated that changes in the US basing structure in South Korea were likely. Therefore, a significant portion of the $5.6 billion in construction projects planned over the following 10 years was to be reassessed based on existing expected basing changes and there was a potential need to to further reassessed when the results of ongoing overseas presence and basing studies were completed.

The LPP was to require 10 years of intensive management to ensure implementation progressed as it was originally planned. The master plan US Forces Korea officials were developing to guide its implementation would require significant revision to accommodate the more comprehensive changes in basing subsequently anticipated and to identify funding requirements and division of funding responsibilities between the United States and South Korea.

On 17 November 2003 the United States and South Korea agreed in principle to move most American forces south from the demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in the country's capital for the annual Security Consultative Meeting between defense officials from the 2 countries. Officials agreed to relocate American forces in the north of the country, primarily the Army's 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, in 2 phases. First, they would be consolidated into a smaller footprint. After this they would be moved to the southern part of the country. Eventually, officials explained, US forces in Korea would be centered on two main "hubs" in the south.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:51:47 ZULU