Saturday, May 7, 2011
Text Fwd: Navy and Air Force wary of military command restructuring
Navy and Air Force wary of military command restructuring
:The branches say the Army is moving to place them under their organizational and operational control
Posted on : May.6,2011 15:01 KST
By Lee Soon-hyuk
A meeting of commanders in the three armed forces is scheduled to take place Friday morning at the Ministry of National Defense building in Seoul’s Yongsan District. The topics under discussion will reportedly include the unwavering implementation of “National Defense Reform Plan 307” and military unity.
At around the same time, around ten former navy and air force chiefs of staff are scheduled to hold a meeting at the Navy Club in Seoul’s Daebang neighborhood in opposition to the changes in the upper military command structure. Regarding these two contrasting events, a military official sighed, “The military is now looking foolish in front of the people of South Korea.”
At present, command and management of the South Korean military is divided into one side that deals with operational command, and an administration side that focuses on operational support areas such as personnel and armaments.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has held authority for the former, while the Chiefs of Staff of the individual armed forces have wielded authority for the latter. But the reorganization plan for the upper command structure would put the Chiefs of Staff within the military command domain. The aim is to establish an unified operational command system and step up cooperation among the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
This conception is linked with Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin’s repeated calls for a “combat-centered military” since assuming his current position. The idea is to remedy the focus of weight on the individuals holding personnel authority, namely the individual Chiefs of Staff, when it should be focused on the individual with combat and operational command authority, namely the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in light of the military’s fundamental purpose.
“People working at the Joint Chiefs of Staff often have two sets of feelers up,” said an Army general. “One is directed at the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is their direct superior, and the other at their own Chief of Staff, who holds personnel powers.”
“How is it possible for an organization like this to focus entirely on preparing for combat and wartime command preparations?” the general asked.
However, observers in the Navy and Air Force suspect an attempt by the Army to effectively requisition their forces. The argument is that it is a move to treat the Navy and Air Force as organizational and operational components of the Army by having a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Army commanding their Chiefs of Staff directly.
Given the continued focus on the Army since the founding of the armed forces, the Navy and Air Force has some degree of cause for this interpretation, but the Army is disparaging it as a self-centered focus on their own individual forces.
Underlying the controversy is the deep-seated distrust and animosity between the Army on one side and the Navy and Air Force on the other. The ratio of Army generals to Navy and Air Force admirals and generals working together in the Joint Chiefs of Staff is roughly 2.5 to 1 and 1. Observers in the Navy and Air Force noted that the Army accounts for the head of the operational headquarters, a lieutenant general, and head of the operational division, a major general, and that Army, Navy, and Air Force brigadier generals and rear admirals occupy the first, second, and third director positions under them handling terrestrial, marine, and aerial operations, respectively.
“Don‘t just look at the ratio of generals and admirals,” commented one observer. “Look at who is holding the positions with real authority.”
The Army countered, “Even when we put Navy and Air Force generals and admirals in major posts, they don’t have the competence or qualifications, so in a lot of cases they just occupy the position before departing.”
Despite the fact that true improvements of collaboration require less organizational chances and more of a “collective mind,” with each of the forces understanding the characteristics and operations of the others, the current situation is not proceeding in that direction. The military leadership has ignored even the measures for improved collaboration that have been amply available under the current system.
A leading case in point in the area of expertise improvements in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to a recent report in the Hankyoreh’s military webzine Defence21, when a North Korean patrol boat ventured south over the Northern Limit Line (NLL) near Baengnyeong Island a few days after the Cheonan sinking last year, mixed in with a group of Chinese fishing boats, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lee Sang-eui ordered an attack with live ammunition. The Second Fleet commander objected, citing the established operational regulations, and Kim Tae-young, who happened to be visiting the Joint Chiefs at the time, hurried to restrain the move, so that the Chinese boats were not fired upon, the report stated.
“This is far from the only time that the Army-centered Joint Chiefs of Staff have issued a bewildering order,” said a Navy official. “With the Gulf of Aden operation, it was announced as though the Joint Chiefs of Staff did it, but in reality it was the Navy that oversaw the operation. The mood over here is that we would be happy if the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Army) did not get it our way.”
A source familiar with the military situation said, “Since the change in administrations, even those figures in the Joint Chiefs of staff who had some understanding of Navy and Air Force operations have mostly been pushed out, and expertise there has diminished even further.”
Please direct questions or comments to [firstname.lastname@example.org]