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New commander takes over U.S. Pacific Fleet

By Audrey McAvoy

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:10 p.m. HST, Oct 16, 2013

A new commander assumed leadership of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific today at a time when the military is trying to shift its focus to the region amid complications from the partial government shutdown.

Adm. Harry Harris took command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during a ceremony at a Pearl Harbor pier. He takes over for Adm. Cecil Haney, who is leaving to lead U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska.

The partial federal government shutdown, which began Oct. 1 when Congress failed to pass a budget, made the ceremony slightly different than those in years past. 

To save money, the Navy didn't pass out programs. Guests were encouraged to find a digital program online. 

The chief of naval operations didn't fly out from Washington for the event as usual. Instead, Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of U.S. Pacific Command, presided over the ceremony. 

Haney, in his departing remarks, said the Navy must continue to maintain a credible and capable force in the region to provide humanitarian assistance, deter potential adversaries and be ready to respond if deterrence fails.

"Given the consistent message of our political and military leadership, I can stand on firm ground and predict that the U.S. will remain a Pacific power far into the future," Haney said.

Harris said the Pacific Fleet would continue to carry out President Barack Obama's strategy of shifting attention to the region to reflect its importance in global trade and economic growth. The region -- from the U.S. West Coast to India -- is also home to some of the world's largest and fastest growing militaries. 

"Our president and secretary of defense are clear. As a nation, we will rebalance to the Pacific and we will work closely with our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," Harris said. 

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