Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Monday, November 12, 2007

USTDC Closure -- Travel Issues

Almost immediately after President James Earl Carter's announcement on the American withdrawal from Taiwan, the Commander In Chief of Pacific Forces (CINCPAC) examined issues relating to the withdrawal and the policies that should apply. One was whether any Department of Defense (DOD) personnel would be allowed to return to Taiwan in any capacity.

DOD provided initial guidance, through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to CINCPAC in January 1979. They dictated that there would be no DOD presence after 30 April 1979 for any reason, including temporary duty (TDY). CINCPAC protested, stating that there were too many unknowns at that point and pointing out that there were many areas which could require TDY by DOD experts and contract monitors to provide efficiency and protection of DOD interests. Such areas would include planning functions to support the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Foreign Military Sales case work, Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) contract monitoring and Defense Property Disposal operations.

Some policy changes came about as a result of these discussions. It was decided that, on a case-by-case basis, a limited number of DOD civilians could travel to Taiwan on a TDY basis in 1979 and beyond to perform such functions as acting as trouble shooters for previously supplied U.S. military equipment, supervising contract work at the PDM facility, administrating contracts for war reserve material, and performing property disposal and installation transfer functions. DOD civilians remaining for more than 179 days would be separated from their government service and be assigned to (and included in the personnel ceiling limit of) the American Institute in Taiwan. That requirement was waived for the seven personnel who were authorized to remain behind to supervise the PDM facility. Any DOD civilians remaining for less than 180 days, or visiting Taiwan, were to be placed in TDY status by their parent organization.

Port calls -- the flight reservations for departing personnel -- presented their own set of challenges. While normal traffic in and out of country was routinely handled by the Aerial Port of Embarkation (APOE), there was no central office in Taiwan responsible for making those reservations. CINCPAC recommended to JCS that the APOE be retained as long as possible, preferably as long as the MDT was in force. In that event, Pacific Air Force (PACAF) recommended that the Military Air Command (MAC) APOE personnel would require augmentation to support withdrawal requirements, including Tainan, Taichung and Taipei.

As the withdrawal began, commanders realized that tighter control of port calls, especially during the March-April time frame, would be necessary. So COMUSTDC assigned one officer to be the central point of contact for all port calls. That continued until 15 April. There were a number of issues that complicated the process, including personnel centers altering reporting dates and end destinations. Aircraft seat availability was not always as projected by MAC. Commanders sometimes changed departure dates based on mission requirements as the withdrawal progressed. There were also personal issues, such as births, deaths, adoptions, and passport/visa problems that disrupted previously made plans.

In mid-March 1979, COMUSTDC prevented further changes in port calls by assuming total functional control and close liaison with the Kadena (Okinawa, Japan) Personnel Reservation Center. The Center sent two personnel TDY to Taipei and they took care of everything (an "invaluable service," according to the report). In addition, COMUSTDC told all service personnel centers that no further changes would be accepted. Ultimately, a daily departure list, by name, was maintained. The report notes that if TDC had acted earlier, many of the problems would have been avoided.

Finally, both DOD civilian and military personal travel to Taiwan was authorized. Civilian clothing was required during any such personal visits. Neither the conduct of official business nor contact with local authorities in any official capacity was authorized.

In the next installment, I'll cover the local national workforce and how it was handled during the withdrawal.

No comments: