The U.S. Army in Motion in the Pacific
Today’s U.S. Army—active, Guard, Reserve— faces an extremely complex and uncertain strategic operating environment. Coming decades are likely to be marked by persistent engagement and conflict— confrontation by state, nonstate and/or individual actors who use violence to achieve their political and ideological ends. Globalization and technology, radicalism, population growth, resource competition, climate change and natural disasters, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and safe havens are but some of the major trends of the 21st century security environment. The potential for cascading effects from combinations of events or crises arising from these formidable trends compounds the risks and implications for the nation and its allies and partners. In this environment, the Army—as part of the joint force— will continue to have a central, enduring role in implementing the national security strategy, resulting in a high demand for Army forces and capabilities.
Army forces will be essential components of joint operations to create sustainable political outcomes while defeating enemies and adversaries who will challenge U.S. advantages in all domains: land, air, maritime, space and cyberspace. Joint operations are critical to cope with such complexity, and the Army’s contribution must provide unique capabilities and multiple options to the President, Secretary of Defense and combatant commanders. These capabilities include tailorable and scalable combinations of special operations and conventional forces, regionally aligned and globally responsive combined-arms teams and foundational theater capabilities to enable joint operations. To do this, innovation is critical, both for the operational and the institutional Army.2
The Army’s senior leadership has added “set the theater” (i.e., presence with the purpose of increasing capabilities and capacities) and “shape security environments” (i.e., work to further partner and allied relationships and foster understanding and cooperation) as core competencies to emphasize the Army’s role in providing options to joint force commanders across the range of operations, including large-scale combat operations, limited contingencies, security force assistance, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This is in keeping with the Army Operating Concept (AOC), which calls for regionally engaged and aligned Army forces to establish a “global landpower network,” shape security environments and prevent conflict. The presence or arrival of credible Army forces demonstrates U.S. resolve and commitment to partners and adversaries.3
While developing this concept, Army senior leadership began to prudently invest Army resources in the Indo–Asia–Pacific region to meet current requirements and build flexibility for the future. The 2012National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the subsequent 2014 NDS emphasized a whole-of-government focus on the security and prosperity of the Indo–Asia–Pacific region. To support this strategy, the Army assigned a four-star general officer to lead the U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), the first since 1974, and began to resource the rebalance in other tangible ways. In the past 30 months, the Army has increased the forces assigned and available to the theater by approximately 40 percent. It made available I Corps and additional units based at Joint Base Lewis–McChord, Washington, as well as the 25th Infantry Division, the 8th Theater Support Command and other commands such as the 351st Civil Affairs Command, an Army Reserve command headquartered in Mountain View, California. The Army “fenced” USARPAC forces from the global force management pool and increased manning priorities in Korea. It bolstered and made available its Indo–Asia–Pacific regionally aligned forces—defined as all forces focused on that area of responsibility (AOR), including permanently-based, forward-positioned and rotational forces—for use by the commander, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM). Today USARPAC is the Army’s largest Army service component command (ASCC). The Army now has an opportunity—through an innovation called Pacific Pathways—to put its new concept into practice.