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Wartime Host Nation Support on the Korean Peninsula

The reception, staging, and onward movement of U.S. forces arriving in Korea during a contingency are not possible without extensive logistics support from the host nation. To meet this need, the United States has developed and routinely tests an extensive wartime host nation support (WHNS) program with the Republic of Korea.

WHNS Mission

Under the WHNS program, the Republic of Korea provides military and civilian resources and assistance for the reception, staging, onward movement, integration, and sustainment of U.S. forces in times of crisis, hostilities, or war, as set forth in agreements between the governments of both nations. The mission of the Korean-U.S. WHNS plan is to allow the rapid deployment of U.S. combat forces to the Korean Peninsula during a crisis, using Republic of Korea-provided logistics assets that may be reinforced by U.S. logistics units and equipment later in the fight.

The WHNS program is coordinated by the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the WHNS branch of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Assistant Chief of Staff, J–4. The MND and USFK J–4 serve as conduits between both governments for all WHNS matters. During times of peace, they develop plans and memorandums of agreement for using WHNS assets during hostilities. During war, they execute those plans, prepare to receive the approved WHNS assets, and acquire unforeseen host nation support for subordinate units with assistance from functional area proponents on the USFK and component staffs. The WHNS has an “unforeseen support” process that is available to expeditiously satisfy any new requirement (or requirements previously submitted but not yet approved) by the Republic of Korea MND.

Implementation of the WHNS Program

The capstone document of the WHNS program is the Umbrella Agreement, which was signed in 1991 by the U.S. Secretary of Defense and the Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense. The WHNS program was formally established in 1992 when the Republic of Korea National Assembly ratified the agreement. U.S. forces submitted their first requirements to the Republic of Korea MND in 1994. The first Republic of Korea Provisional Support Plan was published in 1995; this plan continues to be updated biennially for implementation in January of odd years.

Under the Umbrella Agreement, the Republic of Korea agrees that, during conflicts, it will provide resources that fall into 12 categories: ammunition services; communication services (domestic and international circuits); engineering equipment and services; field services; maintenance equipment and services; medical supplies and hospitals; nuclear, biological, and chemical equipment; personnel; petroleum; security; subsistence; and transportation. The procedures for acquiring host nation resources depend on the particular functional area.

A WHNS requirement must meet specific criteria in order to qualify as a valid WHNS request. By agreement, WHNS assets are authorized only for the support of U.S. forces. This means that noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO) and nongovernmental requests will not go through the WHNS process. NEO and nongovernmental requests must go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but WHNS requests go through the MND.

WHNS assets are available only after a declaration of mobilization and approval by the Republic of Korea Government. Occasionally, units will receive assets or services that are not what they asked for. When requesting WHNS assets, units must identify their requirements carefully and be very specific. Requested assets or services must fall into 1 of the 12 functional area categories mentioned above.

Peacetime WHNS Validation

The USFK WHNS system is validated during peacetime through WHNS exercises. WHNS exercises are a critical part of ensuring that the WHNS program can be executed. It takes an extensive amount of coordination and planning to execute, observe, and evaluate these events. The validation includes several exercises to ensure that WHNS contractors or assets will be able to fulfill their purposes.

Field transfer exercises. During a field transfer exercise, assets from a Republic of Korea civilian company are delivered to a U.S. using unit. The U.S. unit inspects and tests the assets to see if they meet the need. If the assets pass the test, the using unit then signs a receipt for the items. The USFK J–4 conducts field transfer exercises for the receipt of assets like trucks, buses, forklifts, cranes, fuel tankers, and shower and bath services.

Site surveys. U.S. using units conduct terrain walks on WHNS real estate. The unit ensures that the site is still suitable for use and meets all requirements. The units are encouraged to assess security, accessibility, environmental concerns, and utilities when conducting the site survey.

Coordination exercises. U.S. using units meet with Republic of Korea civil providers to validate and refine how WHNS assets will be used. For example, a U.S. unit might meet with a Republic of Korea construction company to ensure that the company’s capabilities and assets are still suitable for U.S. use. As with site surveys, security, accessibility, availability of utilities, and other concerns also are reviewed.

Communications exercises. U.S. units validate point-of-contact information of a WHNS asset by contacting the Korean providing unit and confirming that phone numbers are up to date. U.S. units also confirm that the Republic of Korea is prepared to delete the asset from the record if needed. U.S. units are required to complete communications exercises with all WHNS assets during two annual exercises. The J–4 WHNS branch updates the database to reflect changes discovered during communications exercises.

WHNS Submission Process

U.S. forces submit their planned WHNS requirements during even-numbered years. The MND approves the WHNS Provisional Support Plan during odd-numbered years. For example, the 2005 Republic of Korea WHNS Provisional Support Plan became effective on 1 January 2006. New submissions for the 2007 plan were provided to MND in June 2006. The U.S. requirements are developed using mission analysis at the unit level and are submitted through an automated, web-based process that is reviewed at the component, functional, and USFK levels. The intent is to fill as many equipment, services, and real estate shortfalls as possible through the use of local national assets.

U.S. and Korean personnel should remember that the United States has military forces in the Republic of Korea to support Korean forces during wartime, not the other way around. U.S. forces must maintain continuous contact with their Republic of Korea counterparts to finalize security plans, coordinate WHNS support, and maintain positive relationships with their Korean counterparts at all times. Through their combined efforts, USFK and the MND have developed—and are continually improving—procedures for effectively planning and executing WHNS support. WHNS is a combat multiplier that allows USFK to effectively support the Combined Forces Command mission. WHNS is a shining example of the USFK commander’s motto of “Katche kapchida,” which means, “We go together.”

Lieutenant Colonel Kam S. Gunther is the U.S. Forces Korea, J–4, Wartime Host Nation Support branch chief. She has a B.S. degree in criminal justice from the University of North Dakota and a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma. She is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College.