One of the biggest lessons learned from Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector is that “combatant commanders don’t get to choose their mission” and regional commands have to have the “full spectrum” of capabilities. That’s the word from Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command. Speaking with defense reporters Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Ham said when AFRICOM stood up, “I don’t think [it] . . . thought of itself as running” an operation like Odyssey Dawn. Its forces are borrowed from other commands, even some of its staffing, he noted. Ham also acknowledged that AFRICOM was short of in-house expertise on targeting and effects-based campaign planning when Odyssey Dawn erupted. He isn’t worried that AFRICOM will be cut back too much more; by budget standards, “we’re small potatoes,” he said. But he’s concerned whether there will be sufficient capability to do the kind of military-to-military contacts that African nations are seeking. Despite fears that AFRICOM would be held at arm’s distance by countries in the region, the number of countries seeking partnership activities “is only going up,” he said. (For more background, read The Libya Mission and Bombers over Libya from Air Force Magazine’s 2011 archive.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.