Westphal: Regional partnerships critical to Pacific rebalance
By Staff Sgt. Amber RobinsonJanuary 17, 2013
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (Jan. 17, 2013) -- Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, Ph.D., visited Fort Shafter, Hawaii, Jan. 13-14, to meet with members of Headquarters, U.S. Army Pacific to discuss recent Army developments in the Pacific region.
Westphal met with Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, known as USARPAC, and other leaders Jan. 14, to reinforce the Army's role and the strategic importance of partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region.
During the Hawaii visit, Westphal also spoke about the current rebalance of troops and resources in the Pacific region.
"We're focused on transitioning to a defense strategy that places a greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region," said Westphal. "First of all, the strategy we have to have as a nation has to be balanced across the world. What that means is that it allows us to essentially shift some of our priorities to the Pacific region in ways that we haven't been able to do in the past because of our engagements in the Middle East and to [Central Command]. It gives us a great opportunity to kind of revisit the importance of this region from a strategic and economic standpoint."
As troops and leaders begin this refocus on the Pacific region, Soldiers and their families have become concerned about how it will affect them in the long run.
"Our ability as an Army, to be an effective force of the future is really in our ability to sustain our force," said Westphal. "Our force today is not just our Soldiers, but our families as well. We are doing what we can to put a fence around all of those requirements we have to sustain that force and sustain those families in the midst of this change, and that is non-negotiable."
Westphal also addressed economic changes in the Pacific, stating that the military may not see as large a budget as we have in the past, but troop salary will not be affected in any way.
"All department of government programs, which includes Department of Defense, will be receiving budget cuts across the board," said Westphal. "But one of the exceptions the president has made is that we will not cut Soldier's pay and benefits."
Westphal's visit to the Hawaii is part of a Pacific tour which includes Korea and Alaska.