Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Proposed military
shakeup questioned

Abercrombie asks for the rationale
for any restructuring of forces

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Unsatisfied with the military's proposal for a new North American combat command, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, is working on legislation requesting hearings into its establishment.

Mike Slackman, Abercrombie spokesman, said the concerns of the Hawaii Democrat will be included in an amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2003 defense authorization bill, which is before the House Armed Services Committee this week.

Abercrombie, ranking member of the Military Installations and Facilities Subcommittee, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., voiced their concerns over the creation of North America Command in an April 17 letter to Armed Services Chairman Bob Stumpe, R-Ariz.

Abercrombie and Jones contended that the documents supplied to Congress by the Pentagon for NORTHCOM are inadequate since they do not fully explain the rationale for the shift in the U.S. defense organization.

The April 17 letter said the Defense Department has limited consideration of the proposal "by presenting the plan for activating NORTHCOM one week prior to the committee's debate and consideration of the Defense Authorization bill.

"Critical information pertaining to the security of a nation at war should not be presented to a deliberative body at the same time as the press with no consultation, advice or consent."

Slackman said Abercrombie received a Pentagon briefing a week after the letter was sent, but was still not satisfied.

Abercrombie wants the Armed Services Committee to convene a special hearing on NORTHCOM "to determine the scope, mission and command relationships envisioned for this new organization."

In the new plan, the Northern Command will have overall responsibility within the military for homeland defense. On the civilian side, it will coordinate with the White House's Office of Homeland Defense.

Before the plan was announced April 17, Hawaii Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye had criticized proposals to move Navy and Marine forces in Washington state and California, now controlled by the Hawaii-based Pacific Command, to the new Northern Command.

A decision would likely would be made on command assignments for forces on the West Coast about Oct. 1, which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said is when the new Northern Command would begin operation, likely out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

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