YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Pacific Air Forces commander said Sunday that he is considering meshing the headquarters for Yokota’s 5th Air Force and Guam’s 13th Air Force into one entity.

Gen. Paul V. Hester, in Tokyo to help the Japan Air Self-Defense Force celebrate its 50th anniversary, made the comments to a small group of journalists at Yokota Air Base.

“Our citizens expect and I would want them to demand that we, as military officers, are taking butcher paper up on the wall and we’re writing out a thousand options of how to make both their taxpayer dollars go further as well as make us more efficient and more lethal when lethality is required on the battlefield,” Hester said.

“So as we write up all these thousands of options on the wall, we then start trying to put reality on top of those options.”

Hester, a former U.S. Forces Japan commander at Yokota, said combining the headquarters elements, staffed now with 100 troops in each location, could result in more efficiency from fewer people, perhaps about 150.

“We’re trying to make [the headquarters] more meaningful for the future against the threat that we’re currently seeing so I think it’s useful to acknowledge that … we are trying to determine what is the best path for the future,” he said.

Hester stressed the issue isn’t resolved and that, should the headquarters merge, he’s unsure where the new entity will be located.

“With that butcher paper,” he said, “we can sit in our … white tower insulated from the real world and develop a lot of options. But then once we take those options out of the ivory tower and overlay them on top of reality — then we find budget constraints and political constraints and governmental constraints that have a way of helping shape what is the art of ‘possible’ in the real world.”

He said what makes perfectly good military sense is only a subset of what will be decided as national policy.

Hester also said there have been “a number of thoughts as to how the Japanese Air Self Defense Force could be a part of all of our bases.”

He called Misawa Air Base in northern Japan — which houses the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army, as well as a Japan Air Self Defense Force headquarters — a prime example of joint use.

“It is a model of Japanese and Americans working together and how well that is accepted” in the local community, Hester said.

“I know that there are ongoing discussions locally as to ‘is there a way to capitalize on that model here at Yokota?’ I think we’ll have to see how those discussions mature,” he said.

Military transformation was among key topics Sunday, with Hester labeling it as one of the Pacific Air Forces’ biggest challenges. He said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has “put us on a path with a vision of how to transform from … Cold War … to now to face the new threats that we have around the world.”

He said technological advances are key in evaluating the U.S. presence in the Pacific.

“I think its useful to remind ourselves … that we have made such technological advances across all our militaries — the United States included — we’ve made such remarkable technological advances that in fact we don’t need as many people to achieve the same or even greater affects of the weapons systems that we currently have.”

He also said changes won’t happen overnight.

“It’ll take time for those events to unfold. It’ll take time for the serious conversations between our two countries, but I think that’s where you’ll see us continue to work over the next several years, if not a full decade.”

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