Pentagon Laying Groundwork for More Dispersed Operations Across the Pacific Region Under US Air Force

Foreign Affairs

Washington: After decades of relying on major military hubs from Hawaii to South Korea, the Pentagon is laying the groundwork for more dispersed operations across the Pacific region.

Brig Gen Mike Zuhlsdorf is a key player in those discussions. He serves as the deputy director for resource integration under the Air Force’s logistics, engineering and force protection branch. As other defence officials negotiate with foreign leaders for access to bare-bones airfields and more established bases overseas, it’s Zuhlsdorf’s team that is figuring out how to turn those sites into valuable Air Force lily pads in a maritime-dominant region for the decades ahead.

He said USAF was not putting in new bases. These are bases and airfields that it has had since World War II, where it was able to hopscotch across the Pacific to ultimately get close enough to Japan.

As Zuhlsdorf said “we’re talking about renovating, rejuvenating and rehabilitating. We will make sure the pavement is still viable, trim back the vegetation where the jungle has encroached on the runway, and set up the basic essentials that we need in the event that we need to flush aircraft from a hub into these spokes, keep them safe and then turn them.”

He said USAF was working with allies and partners and Pacific Air Forces has identified airfields that “we want to invest in, and they’re going to work with the Philippines and Australia to do that. We are teaming with them on some projects that will allow us to get fuel out there, some munitions capability and other long-range transport aircraft that would come in and be able to resupply.’’

“We are working with other allies and partners in the area to secure that very critical access, overflight and basing,” Zuhlsdorf said. He said that none of those who wear uniform are looking for war. “Our job is to be prudent with taxpayer dollars, and what the American people want from us is to plan,” he said.

According to Zuhlsdorf, one of the big problems is not having a budget. “When you think about procurement lines that we need to stand up and invest in, we absolutely need Congress’ help in getting a budget passed so we can get the capabilities that we know we need.”

Zuhlsdorf said that “we’re breaking down barriers where we can to make sure that we’ve got the necessary capability and that everybody understands what that is.”

“The threat that’s been posed to us over the last three or four years from the People’s Republic of China has galvanized a lot of allies and partners of US Indo-Pacific Command. There’s an impetus for us to work even closer together moving forward,” he said.