WASHINGTON — The Defense Department made official on Wednesday what has been rumored for two weeks: U.S Pacific Command has been renamed Indo-Pacific Command.
The name change officially reflects a longtime prevailing concept that the two oceans served by the Pacific feet — the Indian and the Pacific — are one larger sea of responsibility. The name change also underscores the increased importance of India in U.S. economic and military strategy.
Defense Secretary James Mattis announced the change during a ceremony in Hawaii, where the new commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet was formally installed. Admiral Philip S. Davidson is replacing Admiral Harry Harris, who is President Trump’s pick to be ambassador to South Korea.
“In recognition of the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we remain the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command,” Mattis said.
“Over many decades this command has a repeatedly adapted to changing circumstances and today carries that legacy forward as America’s focuses west,” he said.
Mattis said that the command has as its focus more than half the worlds surface and its diverse populations, “from Hollywood to Bollywood and polar bears to penguins.”
The talk of Indo-Pacific began around 2013 during the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, to reflect the confluence of the two oceans and the importance of the Indian subcontinent to the economic and military balancing of the continent. Rather than positioning a sharp division between the Indian and Pacific Oceans — or between South and East Asia — the Indo-Pacific term coins the concept of the region as one vibrant, flowing area.
Even the then commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, regularly calling the waters he oversaw as “Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
Last week Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters that a name change would “better encapsulate the responsibilities the command currently has.
“What I will tell you is, that as you know, the significance of any name change is to better characterize the responsibility,” Manning said then. “Same AOR, same responsibilities.”