Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Must Read - Adjusting mindsets on future of alliance command (Korea)

This is a must read editorial.  It makes the point on the dreaded "OPCON Transfer" better than I have been able.  

His view reminds me of an anecdote.  When we were writing the initial CONPLAN 5029 it what was called the "super-combined working group which consisted of ROK and US officers front he Combined Forces Command and ROK officers from the JCS, the working group got off to a rocky start because the first question ROK and US officers wanted to address was "who is in charge?"  It was Marine Lt Gen Ray Ayres who was the CJ5 at the time who finally broke the log jam and said look who is in charge and command relationships can be described on one page.  Let's work on the other 99 pages (the "How") and then we will sort out command relationships at the end.  And that is what we did and that is how we wrote 5029 rather quickly.  Park Jin-ho is advocating a similar course of actin, let's drop the terminology of "OPCON Transfer" and determine what the proper military structure is for the Alliance that will achieve our mutual strategic objectives.

2013-08-06 16:54

Adjusting mindsets on future of alliance command

By Park Jin-ho

Seoul’s Ministry of Defense has requested a review of the conditions for a successful transition of wartime operational control (OPCON), with some going as far to say that the ministry requested another delay in OPCON transition.

From a view of achieving the best strategic interests of the Republic of Korea and the U.S., delaying OPCON transition does not seem to be the best strategic approach because related political controversy between the two nations would distract our strategic focus from discussing the fundamental issue ― sustaining an effective alliance command and control structure capable of addressing the North Korean threat and other security challenges.

A combined wartime command and control structure is a “center of gravity’’ for constituting and sustaining a ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC), or installing a new alliance command and control structure. Changing the wartime command and control relationships significantly impacts “how to fight and win a war.’’

Between Seoul and Washington, however, discussion over “who will lead’’ takes priority over “how to structure’’ a combined defense of the Republic of Korea. These characteristics of bilateral discussion go against a ROK-U.S. combined war fighting spirit of “Let’s go together.”

Military force is the measure of last resort for political leaders in the pursuit of vital national interests. So, it is natural that the issue of military command and control is politically charged. However, the issues involved are complex and have two key components ― military and political.

In the military realm, things are more straightforward than in the political arena. Militarily, we can focus on capabilities and readiness, though as already stated in Korea, we tend to focus more on the “who” instead of the “how” in designing the future structure of combined command and control structure. The decision of OPCON transition is ultimately a political call, but the ROK and the U.S. need to change a strategic mindset.

What is key in both the military and political realm is to sustain or enhance our bilateral combined military partnership. Former President Roh Moo-hyun approached wartime OPCON transfer as a matter of regaining sovereignty, which stimulated a massive political controversy.

Now we should transcend this mindset and discard the term “OPCON transfer” because the term reflects and instigates a nationalistic response to a critical national security issue.

The use of inappropriate terminology often makes an issue much more vulnerable to domestic politicization. In the case of OPCON transfer, such politicization obscures and complicates a strategic discussion for making a sound decision.

We have to examine an appropriate and less politically loaded term to facilitate sound decision-making about the future alliance command and control structure. The best alternative term is “Future Alliance Command and Control.”

The strategic agenda for bilateral discussion of alliance command and control should be focused on “how to defend Korea,’’ not on the question of “who is in the lead.’’

As wartime OPCON is at the zenith of planning and executing a war, the result of a war would be dependent on how to manage the control rather than who manages the control. Our basic ability to fight and win wars should not be tied to whether the ultimate commander wears a ROK or a U.S. uniform.
(Continued at the link below)

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