US Pacific Fleet Gets New Leader; Admiral Retires

By Salon Staff

Published January 21, 2012 4:36AM (EST)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A new leader took over at the U.S. Pacific Fleet on Friday as Adm. Cecil Haney, former deputy of the U.S. Strategic Command, replaced Adm. Patrick Walsh, who is retiring.

Haney, a former submarine squadron commander, told about 900 people at the change-of-command ceremony that he plans to build on the foundation Walsh nurtured as he takes over the helm in an area that stretches from the U.S. West Coast to the Indian Ocean.

Haney said he will work with the other military services to support U.S. Pacific Command to enhance "maritime security and freedom of the seas with the talented men and women of Pacific Fleet and our allies and partners," according to a Pacific Fleet news release.

He comes to Hawaii from Nebraska, where the Strategic Command is located at an air base outside Omaha. The Strategic Command has responsibility for the nation's nuclear forces, including long-range missiles carried aboard submarines and bombers, and land-based missiles capable of striking around the globe.

Haney is taking over Pacific Fleet at a time when the military faces looming budget cuts yet the U.S. seeks to boost its security focus on the region.

Walsh, speaking at the ceremony, warned that other nations are gauging U.S. commitment.

"They are watching with keen interest the effect of the U.S. economic challenges, the strain of more than a decade of war on the Navy's ability to remain forward, to remain engaged and ready," he said.

Walsh said he was sure the Navy would overcome these challenges.

"We have faced austere economic cycles in the past," Walsh said. "And while the American public has kept faith with the Navy, they have not changed their view of our mission or their expectations of our response to crisis conditions."

Earlier this month, the Obama administration unveiled a new defense strategy that seeks to enhance the U.S. presence in Asia because of the region's economic importance and China's rise as a military power.

The Pacific Fleet includes 180 ships, nearly 2,000 aircraft and 125,000 sailors, Marines and civilians. The command stretches from the U.S. West Coast to the Indian Ocean.

Salon Staff

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