By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, August 21, 2015 — The Defense Department’s Asia-Pacific rebalance has entered its next phase, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said earlier this year, and the Army’s I Corps is positioned to support it, I Corps Commanding General Army Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza said in a recent interview.
To support the region, defense leaders focus on efforts to strengthen relationships and modernize U.S. alliances there. This is a priority for 21st century security interests and sustaining U.S. global leadership, Carter said in May at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
As the secretary of defense, Carter said he’s “personally committed to next phase, in which DoD will deepen long-standing alliances and partnerships, diversify America's force posture and make new investments in key capabilities and platforms.”
Lanza, speaking from I Corps headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, told DoD News that I Corps is a large organization with a very large footprint.
“We're the largest military base in the Pacific we happen to be a joint base between the Army and the Air Force,” he said. At headquarters they call the organization First Corps.
I Corps has forces approaching 50,000, Lanza added, and it works with 36 countries in the Pacific.
The Corps is made up of organizations that include the 7th Infantry Division, the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the 25th Infantry Division, I Corps Forward in Japan and U.S. Army Alaska, with its two combat brigades in Fort Wainwright and in Anchorage, the general said.
I Corps has forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, he added, and the forces conduct operations for theater security cooperation in the many Pacific countries.
“What makes us unique also is that Joint Base Lewis-McChord is an extensive power-projection platform with airlift capability from the C-17s and our port capabilities in Tacoma and Seattle,” Lanza said.
“That makes us extremely important in terms of being able to project combat power in the Pacific,” he added.
As to I Corps’ role in the Pacific, Lanza said, “We want to … help set the theater for Gen. Brooks, the U.S. Army Pacific commander, and help de-escalate conflict and avoid miscalculation while we conduct operations globally as well.”
I Corps has never left the Pacific, the general added.
“We've had a lot of taskers and requirements with Iraq and Afghanistan, but as far as our role goes right now,” Lanza said, “the Corps has changed its mission now and we are an operational headquarters for U.S. Army Pacific.”
I Corps is the only corps assigned to a combatant commander, the general added, in this case Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
Lanza said I Corps has projected power in the region through many operations in Japan and Korea, and through a program called Pacific Pathways, in which a brigade combat team goes to three different countries over a four-month period to conduct operations.
The BCT in this third iteration of Pacific Pathways will conduct operations in Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.
“What we've done with Pacific Pathways is taken what used to be exercises and made those operations that test our ability to deploy, build readiness, conduct operations in these other countries, and enhance our experimentation in innovation as we do this,” Lanza said.
Since 2012 the Corps’ role in the Pacific has expanded in terms of military engagements, operations with other countries, and the Corps’ role in building military capabilities in other countries, he added.
“What the Corps does is bring additional capability and capacity into the theater that now exists full time for the Pacific commander,” Lanza said, offering examples of I Corps expansion in the region.
“We just completed a task force certification in Australia with the Australian military and their interagency and our interagency,” the general said.
This means that as a joint task force-capable headquarters, I Corps can conduct operations in a joint intergovernmental, interagency, multinational environment to support the combatant commander.
“We did that by working with our Australian counterparts, counterparts from other countries and the interagency in a combined-arms operation against a hybrid threat and a near-peer competitor in Australia,” the general explained.
I Corps participates in many regional exercises, Lanza said, including Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a bilateral exercise with South Korea to exercise contingency operations, and Yama Sakura with the Japanese, an annual simulation-driven, joint-command-post exercise co-hosted by U.S. Army Pacific and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
“We have been able to effectively engage nine countries just over the last year -- countries such as Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore,” he added, “so our presence is really felt right now in the Pacific.”
Lanza said that about 80 percent of what happens in the Pacific involves humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
I Corps supported the Marines in the Philippines during Operation Damayan -- the name for military relief efforts to help the population after 2013’s typhoon Haiyan -- with the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the general said.
The Marines have the lead, he said, but I Corps provides additional depth and capacity to support the operations if needed.
Lanza said is main concern about I Corps’ future involves the threat of the severe budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act and represented by the term sequestration.
“My concern is not so much our ability to conduct operations in the Pacific. My concern really is with readiness if sequestration comes to fruition,” the general said.
“If we have a force that takes us down to 420,000 , and sequestration is the law,” Lanza said, “my concern is that the resources we need right now will not keep up with the requirements we now have globally and regionally.”