WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has nominated a four-star admiral who played a key role in the Libya air war as the new chief of the military’s vast Pacific Command, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Admiral Samuel Locklear would oversee more than 300,000 service members and a fleet of aircraft and warships over an area spanning the west coast of the United States to the western border of India.
Locklear, who currently oversees US naval forces in Europe and Africa and leads NATO’s Joint Forces Command in Naples, helped shape the allied air campaign in Libya that ended with the toppling of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime.
As chief of Pacific Command, based in Hawaii, the admiral will likely be heavily focused on China’s growing economic and military might as well as the threat posed by North Korea, whose longtime leader Kim Jong-Il died this month.
The nomination for a new PACOM commander comes after a year in which the Obama administration has stressed the strategic importance of the Asia-Pacific region and vowed to expand the American military’s presence, announcing the deployment of up to 2,500 US Marines in Australia.
Locklear would replace the current chief of Pacific Command, Admiral Robert Willard, who was appointed in October 2009.