Thursday, January 20, 2005

Adm. William Fallon
selected to head
Pacific Command

The officer was named after
Sen. McCain rejected the first pick

Adm. William J. Fallon has been selected by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to be the next head of the U.S. Pacific Command, the Hawaii-based headquarters of U.S. military operations in the Pacific and Asia, Pentagon and administration officials said yesterday.

Fallon, a former vice chief of naval operations who now heads the Navy's Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., would replace Adm. Thomas Fargo, who will retire at the end of February. Fargo will remain in Hawaii and become a member of the board for Hawaiian Electric Industries and it subsidiary Hawaiian Electric Co.

A spokesman for the Pacific Command today had no comment other than "no official announcement has been made by the Department of Defense." Fargo is currently in Thailand observing the military's humanitarian relief effort following the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.

Rumsfeld's choice is subject to the approval of President Bush and the U.S. Senate, but both steps are considered formalities in a process that would move Fallon to a command whose regional activities span 43 countries in the Pacific and South Asia. As the senior U.S. military commander in the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, Fallon would lead the largest of the unified commands and would direct Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force operations across more than 100 million square miles.

As the 20th commander of American forces in the Pacific, Fallon would have overall responsibility for military planning and operations in two of the world's most serious potential flash points: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait.

Bush's original choice to replace Fargo was Gen. Gregory S. Martin of the Air Force. But Martin withdrew his name from consideration in December after a hearing at which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sharply criticized his close professional ties to a top Air Force official embroiled in a procurement scandal.

After that surprising turn of events, Pentagon officials said, Rumsfeld settled on Fallon for his operational experience, political skills and creative ideas on revamping the military for the 21st century to be a more agile and lethal force.

As commander of the Fleet Forces Command since October 2003, Fallon is responsible for more than 200,000 sailors and officers, 250 ships and submarines, and 3,000 aircraft based on both coasts.

A native of Merchantville, N.J., Fallon, 60, has a broad range of combat experience. He flew combat missions in the Vietnam War, commanded a carrier air wing in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, and four years later led the naval battle group supporting NATO operations in Bosnia.

In 2000, Fallon became vice chief of naval operations, a job that catapulted him into the international spotlight a year later when the submarine Greeneville collided with a Japanese fishing school trawler, the Ehime Maru, off Diamond Head, killing nine aboard that ship.

Three weeks after the accident, Fallon flew to Japan as Bush's envoy to apologize to the victims' families.

Fargo has headed the Pacific Command since May 2002 and was in charge of U.S. military operations in the Pacific during the USS Greeneville incident.

He served as the 29th commander of the U.S Pacific Fleet from October 1999 to May 2002.

He also was involved in another international incident on April 1, 2001 when a Navy P-3 Orion subhunter aircraft was forced to land in China and its crew taken as prisoners.

Fargo, a submarine officer, commanded the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces of the Central Command during two years of "no fly-zone" operations over northern and southern Iraq from July 1996 to July 1998.

U.S. Pacific Command

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