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The Military Asia-Pacific Rebalance

USACE expands and deepens its commitment to U.S. alliances.

 

In January 2012, the United States released new Department of Defense (DOD) strategic guidance to articulate national priorities for a 21st century defense posture that will sustain U.S. global leadership: Collectively known as the “Asia-Pacific Rebalance.”

The organizational heart of USACE support to the Pacific Rebalance is the Pacific Ocean Division (POD). Headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, POD is one of nine USACE divisions, with four subordinate districts: Honolulu District; Alaska District; Japan District; and Far East District.

The document, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” identifies a range of U.S. economic and security interests that are “inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region,” it states.

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is playing a vital role in that process.

 

PACOM and Host-nation Support

The organizational heart of USACE support to the Pacific Rebalance is the Pacific Ocean Division (POD). Headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, POD is one of nine USACE divisions, with four subordinate districts: Honolulu District; Alaska District; Japan District; and Far East District.

“In the Pacific, we’re providing engineering support to U.S. Pacific Command [PACOM],” explained Eugene M. Ban, SES, P.E., director of programs for POD. “And PACOM’s strategic approach for the Asia-Pacific region is to reinforce our security architecture of alliances and partnerships, including building new partnerships, strengthening multilateral constructs, and reinforcing strategic foundations.”

Ban outlined a number of ways that USACE is providing engineering support to that PACOM strategy.

“In Japan, for example, the subordinate command to PACOM is U.S. Forces Japan,” he explained. “That command supports the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance in order to maintain regional stability and deter aggression. We are the engineers that support this overall objective, and we do it by executing our Department of Defense construction agency responsibilities across Japan.”

He continued, “Then, in Korea, where we are also the DOD construction agent, the major command is U.S. Forces Korea. Their mission is to deter aggression and defend the Republic of Korea [ROK] and U.S. interests in order to maintain regional security, stability, and economic prosperity.”

The new runway at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni extends the previous runway 1 kilometer (1,093 yards) and was constructed for safety-related issues, as well as reducing noise over Iwakuni. The project began in 1997 and was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Japan District in spring 2010. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Japan District photo

The new runway at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni extends the previous runway 1 kilometer (1,093 yards) and was constructed for safety-related issues, as well as reducing noise over Iwakuni. The project began in 1997 and was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Japan District in spring 2010. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Japan District photo

While the role of DOD construction agent conveys responsibility for all of the military construction programs for all DOD services and agencies in Japan and Korea, Ban said that many additional activities stem from USACE responsibilities for host-nation construction programs in both countries.

“These host-nation programs are very sizeable and are accomplished bilaterally and in partnership with both of those countries,” he noted.

Along with the PACOM support and host-nation construction examples cited, Ban said that USACE POD also does a great deal of interagency and international support across the PACOM region.

 

Japan

Gary Kitkowski, deputy district engineer for Programs & Project Management Division, USACE Japan Engineer District, pointed to a range of specific district projects being undertaken across mainland Japan and on the island of Okinawa.

“The majority of our program in Japan Engineer District is the host-nation program,” he explained. “It’s a program that is funded by the Japanese government, which does the design and performs the construction of the projects. We provide coordination, facilitation, and oversight of those projects to make sure that the facilities meet U.S. criteria to the maximum extent practicable, since they are designed for the U.S. forces and DOD agencies stationed here in Japan.”

Kitkowski acknowledged that the future plans for the currently robust U.S. MILCON projects are still taking shape, but that the DOD’s Pacific Rebalance has created anticipation of “an uptick” to MILCON activities as well.

Kitkowski said that USACE also performs U.S.-funded military construction (MILCON) work across the district, offering the “P-998” project as one recent representative example.

“P-998 was U.S. Navy MILCON,” he began. “Sometimes called the Wharf Upgrade Project, it upgraded the wharf at Yokosuka Naval Base to allow the forward deployment of the USS George Washington [CVN 73] nuclear aircraft carrier here in Japan. And we are particularly proud of that project because it supported a key U.S. forward-deployment initiative in the Pacific.”

Turning to examples of recent host-nation projects, Kitkowski pointed to the 2013 completion of a new state-of-the-art naval hospital on Okinawa, which relocated an aging existing hospital as part of land returns now underway on Okinawa, as well as the Iwakuni Runway Relocation Project (IRRP).

“IRRP moved the existing runway on Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station 1,000 meters out to the ocean,” he summarized. “And that was a huge project because it involved millions of cubic meters of land reclamation – literally ‘building land’ to relocate that runway. And it’s not just the runway; it’s also all of the facilities associated with aircraft operations on that runway – air traffic control tower, hangars, support facilities, and communications facilities. The program ran over 10 years but it was a significant feat. It was constructed by the government of Japan, but again, we were part of it, ensuring that U.S. requirements were met.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...