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American Forces Press Service

Pacom: Asia-Pacific Focus Represents ‘Whole of Government’ Rebalance

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CAMP SMITH, Hawaii, Aug. 3, 2012 – Recognizing that the new focus on the Asia-Pacific region is a national strategy and one not just for the Defense Department alone, U.S. Pacific Command is reaching out to its interagency and non-governmental partners to roll it out in an efficient, well-coordinated manner.

“We are in the process of refocusing on the Asia-Pacific, and a key part of that is assuring that our military relationships throughout the region are strong and secure,” said Ambassador Marc Wall, foreign policy advisor to Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the Pacom commander.

“That is a key part of it, but it is not the only part,” Wall told American Forces Press Service. “It also has important elements involving diplomatic outreach. We want to strengthen our multilateral relationships throughout the region. We also want to expand our economic relationships in the region.”

So as Pacom implements the Defense Department’s new strategic guidance that emphasizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific to U.S. national security, a division within the headquarters is helping to ensure the command’s programs and initiatives track with those of other government agencies.

Representatives of the departments of State, Energy and Interior; Agency for International Development; FBI and CIA are all assigned to Pacom’s Pacific Outreach Directorate.

They help provide a better understanding of what each organization brings to the mission, better operational coordination and less overlap, said Michael Ritchie, the office director.

“Much of what we do is educate,” he said, helping staff members recognize the non-DOD capabilities that can enhance Pacom’s mission.

“I like to tell people, ‘We don’t make the product,’” Ritchie said. “We exist to make the product better, bringing the perspectives and the authorities of the rest of government to the planning and operations of the command.”

The proof is in the pudding, he said. “We do much better contingency planning [and] we write plans in language that the rest of the government understands,” Ritchie said. “We are much better off for it, and so are our interagency partners.”

Unlike some U.S. combatant commands that integrate non-DOD representatives directly into their headquarters staffs, Ritchie made a conscious decision to maintain his staff’s reporting and rating chains to their respective departments and agencies.

“They are here to assist us in doing better planning and inform us about the types of things that their agency is doing, and this model empowers them to better inform us,” he said.

The “whole-of-government” approach boils down to four basic areas, referred to as DIME: diplomatic, informational, military and economic, Ritchie explained.

The Defense Department recognizes its responsibility for the “military” piece. But even in interactions that appear to fall within this area, Ritchie said sometimes DOD isn’t the best resource. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for example, is better postured than Pacific Air Forces to assist a country looking for help in stopping smugglers from using its air routes.

“This is not a U.S. Air Force core competency, but it is a Customs and Border Protection core competency,” Ritchie said. “So we are able to bring the right tool to the country and help them solve their problem, with people who have expertise in interdicting and tracking people in light aircraft that come across their border…Our military doesn’t have those roles, but we have friends who do.”

That’s the strength of the whole-of-government approach, Ritchie said. “It is using all our authorities to do what we do, in conjunction with other people’s authorities, in order to get the job done better,” he said.

Ritchie’s staff ensures that the Pacom commander and staff recognize and understand what other government agencies are doing in the Asia-Pacific, and ensures their own plans dovetail with those efforts. As a result, Pacom is increasingly incorporating not only the interagency, but also non-governmental and international organizations, academia and the private sector into its outreach initiatives.

The current, Pacom-sponsored Pacific Partnership humanitarian and civic assistance mission, for example, includes military and civilian experts from the United States, four host nations, 11 partner nations and two dozen U.S. and international NGOs.

A command-wide program designed to build Pacific nations’ resiliency to natural disasters is tapping into NGOs’ and universities’ skills and manpower, and funding from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its members.

Ritchie cited another example of how the private sector and military could work together. “If there are corporations that are interested in doing clean-water projects, and we have engineers who dig wells as part of their training, then perhaps we can collaborate and do something together,” he said. “So we do a well, they do a distribution system and everyone wins. It is maximizing the benefits on the margins of everyone’s interest.”

Looking to the future, with a national focus on the Asia-Pacific and constrained budgets, Ritchie said he sees great opportunity to expand Pacom’s interagency and non-governmental collaboration. It brings the broadest range of capabilities, experiences and perspectives, he said, to assemble the best and broadest array of tools in a single toolkit.

That, he said, is the genius behind Pacom’s basic mission statement: “US. Pacific Command, together with other U.S. government agencies, protects and defends the United States, its territories, allies and interests.”

“It begins with, ‘together, with other federal agencies,’” Ritchie said. “And to me, that is the key here.”

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