Friday, February 09, 2018

America’s History, Future Integral to Pacific, Dunford Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, Feb. 9, 2018 — It is somehow appropriate that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s latest visit to the Pacific ends here, where the history of America’s involvement in the region is in a nutshell.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford arrived here yesterday after a trip that took him to Wake Island, Australia, Thailand and Guam.

Chinese propagandists insist the United States is a declining power in the Pacific, no longer able to safeguard the rules-based international order that has provided security, stability and economic progress for the region since World War II. They say they have a better way to go – so long as you do exactly what they tell you.

A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is a lesson to those who underestimate U.S. commitment to the region.

The memorial is bestride the wreckage of the battleship Arizona – sunk in the opening moments of the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet on Dec. 7, 1941. A total of 1,177 sailors and Marines died in the explosion on the Arizonaand 38 sets of brothers and one father and son were killed in the attack.

Moored 500 yards astern of the Arizona is the USS Missouri. On the deck of that battleship, U.S. and allied leaders watched as Japanese officials surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945.

Since then, the United States has maintained a strong military presence in the Pacific and will continue to do so for the future, Dunford said.

Rules-Based International Order

The rules-based international order has allowed all nations in the region – including China – to prosper. The United States is very much invested in the region politically, economically and militarily. President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and the chairman have made repeated trips to allies and partners in the region.

More than 350,000 U.S. service members and Defense Department civilians are serving in the region, according to U.S. Pacific Command. The exercise program with allies and partners – exemplified by Exercise Cobra Gold starting next week in Thailand – is comprehensive and challenging. The United States has been there operationally, also providing aid during natural disasters such as the 2004 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Indonesia and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan.

Some 50,000 U.S. service members are based in Japan, and 28,000 Americans are ready to “fight tonight” alongside their South Korean allies. U.S. service members provided enablers to the Philippine armed forces as they battled Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-affiliated groups in the city of Marawi.

U.S. Marines are rotating in and out of Darwin, Australia. The U.S. and Japanese governments are investing millions in upgrading military facilities in Guam and on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Even on Wake Island – with a total U.S. military garrison of four – is looking to the future, as it is a test bed for missile defense.

Meeting Alliance Commitments

The bottom line is that the United States is able to meet its alliance commitments in the Pacific, Dunford said in an interview with reporters traveling with him.

“We have an alliance with South Korea. We have one with the Philippines. We have one with Japan. We have one with Thailand. We have one with Australia,” he said. “And our force posture and presence here, and our level of readiness, and the level of interoperability that … we’ve developed … allows us to meet our alliance commitments.”

From a security perspective, the U.S. presence “is underlying the rules-based international order that for the last 70 years everybody has benefited from,” he said. “And what we’re doing now is we’re modernizing our force, we’re modernizing our presence in the region, and we’re enhancing our relationships in the region to ensure that we have another 70 years of peace in the rules-based international order.”

Pacom has 60 percent of the entire U.S. Air Force dedicated to it. The U.S. Navy will soon have 60 percent of its capabilities in the region. The U.S. Army Pacific has been upgraded to four-star level, and the service is also putting significant resources into the region.

The network of allies and partners developed since the end of World War II is dedicated to the rules-based international order. “They don’t want ‘might to equal right,’” Dunford said. “They want there to be a set of international standards and norms that are enforced by the international community’s collective coherent response. That’s what our relationships here in the region are all about.”

And no one should underestimate the quality of America’s military. “One of the more important things for military power is human capital,” Dunford said. “And it’s the education of that capital, it’s the flexibility of that … human capital. And when I look at our noncommissioned officers as an example compared to any autocratic nation, the degree of initiative our junior people have, the degree of education that they have, and the competence they have is unmatched.”

Others understand this. He noted that at the end of the Cold War, the former Warsaw Pact countries focused on developing junior officer and noncommissioned officer corps “that had the kind of initiative and flexibility that ours does,” the chairman said.

“So I think when it comes to military effectiveness -- equipment aside, from a human capital perspective -- I think there’s a strong argument to be made that a liberal democracy produces a stronger leadership corps with the kind of qualities that they have to have to deal with the uncertainty and the chaos of combat.”

Opioids Present Unprecedented Threat, Sessions Tells Southcom Summit

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2018 — The nation is facing an unprecedented threat from opioids, with tens of thousands of people dying each year in the United States in overdoses involving the substance, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said yesterday in Miami at U.S. Southern Command.

“It’s a tremendous threat to us; it’s something we’ve never seen before,” Sessions said in opening remarks at the one-day meeting at Southcom headquarters.

Sessions said 52,000 people in the United States died of overdoses in 2015. The number of overdoses in the United States rose to 64,000 in 2016, he said, noting the biggest part of the surge was from opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that opioids -- including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioids -- killed more than 42,000 people in 2016. The CDC says that is more than any year on record.

“We all have got to think better,” Sessions urged, noting that President Donald J. Trump has declared the issue a national health emergency. The nation’s average life expectancy has declined, Sessions said, adding that the leading cause of death for people under 50 in the United States is drug overdose.

Southcom commander Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd described the opioid crisis as “one of the most dangerous problems facing our nation.”

The crisis challenges traditional methods of dealing with threats and spans many organizational boundaries, Tidd told the forum, which included multiagency representation in public health, law enforcement and justice.

“I hope this summit will act as a catalyst to jumpstart future collaboration and synchronization as we move forward,” he said.

Southcom is one of many stakeholders involved in addressing the crisis, he said, adding he was proud to host diverse representation of agencies, leaders and experts.

Multi-Agency Approach to Crisis

Attendees included representatives from the U.S. departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, State and Treasury. The officials considered approaches to strengthen the nation’s collective response and define holistic strategies supporting Trump’s call to action in the national health emergency.

The 2018 national drug control budget, which funds federal agencies tasked with reducing the demand and supply of illicit and illegally consumed drugs in the United States, has set a priority to reverse the sharp increase in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Mattis Clears Up DACA Deportation for Service Members

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2018 — U.S. service members who are a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program cannot be deported, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told Pentagon reporters today.

“Anyone who’s in the delayed enlistment program or is already signed up and waiting to go into boot camp, anyone on active duty, anyone in the active reserves and anyone with an honorable discharge … will not be subject to any kind of deportation,” the secretary told reporters.

Exceptions would apply if a service member either has committed a serious felony or has received a federal judge’s signed deportation order, Mattis said, adding that he is not aware of either case applying to a U.S. service member.

“I’m working right now with the secretary of homeland security,” he said. “We’ve been over [the DACA issue] in great detail.”

Attack in Syria

The secretary also confirmed “about 300” Syrian pro-regime forces were involved in yesterday’s surprise attack on Syrian Democratic Forces, which are fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He called the attack on the SDF “very serious,” and said it is not yet known what forces launched the pro-regime attack on the U.S.-led and coalition-backed SDF.

“I would characterize it as a perplexing situation,” Mattis said, noting that U.S. Special Forces were with the SDF during the attack. “I’m not sure why [regime forces] would do this, because it was [an SDF] headquarters. They began shelling it with artillery, and immediately the deconfliction line was in use. They were moving with tanks, obviously in the same direction they were firing.

“At the end of our effort to defend ourselves,” Mattis continued, “their artillery was knocked out, two of the tanks were knocked, out [and] they had casualties. The Russians told the U.S. military they did not have forces there, he added.

“It was self-defense, [and we are] not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war. We’re there to fight ISIS,” he said. “That’s what those [SDF] troops were doing – coordinating strikes against ISIS,” when the unexplained attack took place.

Military Parade

The secretary also confirmed that President Donald J. Trump has inquired about a military parade.

“The president is looking at a parade – I owe him some options,” he said. “We’ll turn it over to the military guys who know how to do parades and we’ll do options, and we’ll work out everything from size to participation and the cost. When I get clear options, I’ll send those over to the White House, and I’ll go over and talk with [the president].”

Aside from saying he understands that the president wants the parade to be in Washington, Mattis said he could not provide further details on the parade because his conversations with the president are confidential.