Double change of command scheduled for Pacific region
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — A double change of command for two of the Pacific's highest-ranking military members will show off some four-star power May 27 at Pearl Harbor now that the Pentagon's top military job is sorted out.
Navy Vice Adm. Scott H. Swift will take over U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered at Pearl Harbor, and then Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of Pacific Fleet, will assume leadership of U.S. Pacific Command, based out of Camp H.M. Smith.
The current head of Pacific Command since 2012, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III is retiring after being considered for the top uniformed job in the U.S. military: chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
On May 5, President Barack Obama instead nominated Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford as the next Joint Chiefs chairman and principal military adviser to the president and his national security team.
Pacific Fleet, Pacific Command, Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Army Pacific are all four-star commands in Hawaii — the highest rank in the U.S. military.
The job changes have been a while coming for Harris and Swift. Harris was nominated to lead Pacific Command on Sept. 22. Swift, Harris' replacement at Pacific Fleet, was selected Nov. 20.
The interim saw the installation of a new defense secretary, Ash Carter, who was sworn in Feb. 17.
Separately, Locklear was cleared of any involvement in a wide-ranging Navy bribery scandal, U.S. Pacific Command said.
As of mid-April eight people had been convicted on corruption charges involving Malaysian defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, known as "Fat Leonard," the Washington Post reported.
U.S. Pacific Command encompasses about half the earth's surface. Approximately 360,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel are assigned to the region, the command said.
That includes U.S. Pacific Fleet with about 200 ships (including five aircraft carrier strike groups), nearly 600 aircraft and 140,000 sailors and civilians.
Marine Corps Forces Pacific includes two Marine Expeditionary Forces and about 86,000 personnel and 640 aircraft assigned. Pacific Air Forces has about 29,000 airmen and more than 300 aircraft.
U.S. Army Pacific has about 106,000 soldiers assigned. More than 1,200 special operations personnel also are part of Pacific Command.
Harris, the highest-ranking Asian-American in the history of the Navy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in early December that 36 years of military experience and seven tours in the Pacific helped prepare him for the Pacific Command job.
He said he would focus on three main challenges: North Korea's conventional and nuclear weapons; China's rapid military modernization; and strengthening relationships with treaty allies and partners.