Friday, August 8, 2014

The U.S. and South Korea Should Focus on Improving Alliance Capabilities Rather Than the OPCON Transition

Excellent discussion of the OPCON transfer issue from Bruce Klinger.  Needless to say I agree with these recommendations (but please read the entire essay).

Recommendations for an Effective Military Strategy

South Korea should affirm that it still seeks responsibility for wartime OPCON command. President Park Geun-hye should articulate plans to redress shortages in the country’s defense capabilities, including critical shortages in C4ISR.
Washington and Seoul should:
    • Not establish a new arbitrary date for the OPCON transition, but instead allow a conditions-based approach to drive the timing of the decision, based on an assessment of the North Korean threat and allied military capabilities. The dominant consideration should be ensuring robust combined and integrated allied capabilities to deter and defeat the North Korean threat.
    • Assess the potential repercussions of the OPCON transition on North Korean and Chinese behavior; U.S. force posture in the Pacific, including Japan and Okinawa; and regional perceptions of U.S. security guarantees.
    • Abandon the plan to abolish Combined Forces Command upon the OPCON transition. Instead, the allies should retain the CFC with the Chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff becoming the CFC commander and the commander of U.S. Forces Korea becoming the deputy CFC commander. Washington should retain command of the UNC.
    • After the OPCON transition, South Korean officers should serve as the subordinate ground component commander and naval component commander with U.S. officers as the air component commander and a newly created position of amphibious warfare component commander. The CFC commander would continue to report to both the U.S. and South Korean National Command Authorities.
Before people get up in arms about a ROK General Officer in Command of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command because of the so-called "Pershing Rule," those critics need to understand the command relationships and if they do not then they need to hold their fire until they do.  We need to understand that the ROK/US CFC answers to the Military Committee which as I have said over and over again is made up of representatives of and answers to the National Command and Military Authorities of Korea and and the National Authority of the Untied States.  Here is an attempt to summarize of the command relationships:

The ROK/US Combined Forces Command (ROK/US)  is the warfighting headquarters of the ROK/US Alliance.  It answers to the Military Committee which provides strategic direction and operational guidance to the ROK/US CFC and consists  of representatives of both nations' National Command and Military Authorities (NCMA) (ROK) and National Authority (NA) (US).  The ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) retains command of all ROK forces and when directed by the ROK NCMA provides forces to the ROK/US CFC for employment under its operational control.  US Forces Korea (USFK)  is a subunifed command of US Pacific Command (PACOM) which is the Combatant Command of the US and PACOM retains combatant command of all US forces in the Korean Theater of Operations with USFK exercising OPCON of US forces for PACOM.  USFK provides forces to the ROK/US CFC for employment under its operational control when directed by US National Authority.  The United Nations Command (UNC) is responsible for maintaining the Armistice and answers to the US JCS as the designated executive agent for the United Nations.  The UNC may also have operational control of international forces from United Nations' sending states should sending states chose to provide forces for the defense of the ROK in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 82 through 85 (circa 1950).

Backgrounder #2935 on Alliances
August 7, 2014

The U.S. and South Korea Should Focus on Improving Alliance Capabilities Rather Than the OPCON Transition

Washington and Seoul have so fixated on the deadline for transferring wartime operational command of South Korean forces as to be distracted from ensuring robust combined and integrated allied capabilities to deter and defeat the North Korean military threat. Moreover, the current plan to dissolve Combined Forces Command is ill-advised and potentially dangerous during hostilities. For maximum deterrent and warfighting capabilities, the U.S. and South Korea should instead retain the combined command structure, although with Seoul assuming command upon OPCON transition. South Korea should commit to acquiring necessary defense capabilities, including a more effective missile defense system.
If hostilities break out between North Korea and South Korea (ROK), the current agreement between Washington and Seoul would put all ROK forces under control of the bilateral Combined Forces Command (CFC), which is led by a U.S. general. During armistice,[1] the government of South Korea controls its military forces, while the U.S. controls all U.S. and international forces on the Korean Peninsula.
In April 2014, President Barack Obama and President Park Geun-hye preliminarily agreed for a second time to postpone the planned dissolution of the CFC and return of the wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean military forces to Seoul.[2] Washington acquiesced to Seoul’s request to reassure an ally nervous of its defense capabilities in the face of the growing North Korean threat and a perceived weakening of U.S. resolve.
A delay beyond the December 2015 deadline would provide additional time to decide on the requisite command structure and operational plans and to procure the necessary equipment to improve allied capabilities. However, Washington and Seoul should not be complacent. The two postponements were necessitated by insufficient progress in achieving requirements and by North Korean refusal to eliminate its nuclear weapons.
Washington and Seoul should not establish a new arbitrary date for the OPCON transition. Instead, they should time the transition based on a conditions-based approach that assesses both the North Korean threat and allied military capabilities.
However, the manner of the transition is more important than its timing. The planned dissolution of the existing combined command structure into two, separate, parallel commands is ill-advised and potentially dangerous during hostilities.[3]
Washington and Seoul should instead retain the Combined Forces Command for maximum allied deterrent and warfighting capabilities. Upon regaining wartime OPCON, South Korea should assume command of the CFC with the United States shifting to the deputy commander position, while Washington retains command of United Nations Command (UNC).
Such a dramatic reversal will require extensive bilateral planning, training, and validation. South Korea will also need to increase its procurement, particularly of requisite command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities.
For its part, the United States will need to address congressional and public concerns arising from appearing to place American troops under foreign operational control. U.S. military leaders should emphasize that U.S. forces would actually be under alliance operational control, as exercised in NATO.
In many ways, fixating on the OPCON transition has been a distraction. Washington and Seoul should instead focus on ensuring robust combined and integrated allied capabilities to deter and defeat the multifaceted North Korean military threat.

Control of South Korean Military Forces

Following the 1950 invasion by North Korean forces, South Korean President Syngman Rhee handed operational control of the South Korean military to the United Nations Command. Although the 1953 armistice ended the Korean War, the UNC retained OPCON until 1978, when it was transferred to the newly established Combined Forces Command. The CFC returned peacetime OPCON of South Korean forces to Seoul in 1994.[4]
The Armistice Roles of the UNC, the CFC, and USFK. The senior U.S. general on the Korean Peninsula, currently General Curtis Scaparrotti, concurrently serves as the commander of the UNC, the CFC, and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). The UNC commander leads an 18-nation coalition responsible for maintaining the 1953 armistice agreement.
The CFC commander is responsible for deterring North Korean aggression and organizing, planning, and exercising U.S. and South Korean forces. During armistice, the Chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff has day-to-day responsibility for defending the country, but the CFC plans, trains, and stands ready to assume operational control in time of war.[5]
The USFK commander leads the 28,500 U.S troops in Korea. These troops do not patrol the Demilitarized Zone or conduct air or sea patrols. The USFK is not a warfighting headquarters. Its main function is to train U.S. troops in Korea, to evacuate all U.S. civilians if directed by the U.S. ambassador, and to facilitate the reception of the hundreds of thousands of troops that would come from the U.S. in case of war.[6]
During armistice, South Korean forces remain under the command and operational control of the Chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the individual military service chiefs of staff. However, both the USFK and South Korean troops are temporarily assigned to the CFC to participate in exercises, such as Key Resolve, Foal Eagle, and Ulchi Freedom Guardian.
Transition to Wartime. If war became imminent, the presidents of both countries would approve placing their military forces under the CFC, which would then become the alliance’s warfighting headquarters. The CFC commander would lead combined U.S.–South Korean forces to defend South Korea and defeat the threat, but the U.S. commander of the CFC remains “under the firm direction and guidance of both nations’ political and military leaders in a consultative manner.”[7]
Although under the operational control of the CFC commander, both U.S. and South Korean forces would remain under the command of their respective presidents. The CFC commander receives strategic guidance from military authorities of both countries (the Chairman of the U.S. JCS and U.S Secretary of Defense for the United States and the South Korean JCS Chairman and Minister of Defense).
The UNC transitions to a headquarters that receives forces from other countries that are deployed to help defend Korea.[8] The UNC commander is responsible for the operational control and combat operations of UNC member-nation forces.[9]

Roh’s Request for OPCON

(Continued at the link below)

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