U.S. Army “fences off” military diplomacy from sequester

In the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. Army will not cut spending on military diplomacy, the senior-level exchanges, exercises and other face-to-face interactions that commanders say they must continue to maintain the trust of U.S. allies.

"We've been able to fence our engagements throughout our theater of operations," said Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commander of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), including exercises. "Those will continue to move forward."

It's yet another sign of the Pentagon's commitment to the "rebalancing" and Asian regional security, the three-star commander said. Much of what the Army does in the Pacific is walled-off from the budget cuts required by sequester, including all funds for the defense of South Korea and extending to all of the "enabler" forces required to support that mission. That makes cuts in other areas even deeper, especially equipment maintenance, Wiercinksi said.

But he gave his personal commitment to continue senior-level face time across region's militaries.

"That's the part I've been able to fence, because I believe that's one of our primary missions, and literally my primary mission in the theater," Wiercinski said, at the Pentagon on Monday. "I place so much emphasis on engagement and open communication, and partnering with allied friends and partners."

"In this business, with relationship building is building trust, and that's the part I want to make sure we hold onto," he said. 

The USARPAC commander's trust declaration comes a few weeks before one of the largest annual gatherings of Asia-Pacific military and defense officials, at the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to deliver a keynote address during his first visit to the conference since taking office.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod