Tag Archives: Atlantic Navy

Smaller U.S. Fleet Requires a Pacific Focus

Smaller U.S. Fleet Requires a Pacific Focus

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This article is a response to “Atlantic Naval Forces Have a Future,” written on Sept. 10, 2012 by J. Randy Forbes.

The U.S. Navy’s shift in strategic emphasis in recent years provides the impetus for a closer examination of the options for both force structure and basing. These discussions must be frank and driven by strategic realities.

Last week’s assessment by Randy Forbes’ is absolutely correct when arguing that the number of ships available for service remains the most critical issue facing the Navy. An increase of more than 50 percent in operational ship-days combined with the smallest Fleet in almost a century has led to a rash of reports of ships suffering from degraded material conditions. The maintenance facilities in U.S. ports are unparalleled and represent the best answer to reversing those troubling trends. The assertions concerning the need to maintain a credible force in our Atlantic ports are also compelling. Southern Command, West African contingencies, and European Command requirements are all best supported from East Coast traditional homeports. Those arguments, while compelling, do not overcome the limitations of geography and history.

Historically, Middle Eastern contingencies have been well-supported by ships based in Norfolk, Virginia, and Mayport, Florida. Four of the seven aircraft carriers that supported Operation Desert Storm in 1991 deployed from the East Coast. Throughout the protracted confrontation with Iraq that continued over the ensuing decade, the homeports of the deploying naval forces alternated between the U.S Atlantic and Pacific Fleet. While that seems to suggest that continuing the existing basing arrangements would adequately support the needs of Central Command, there are political developments that may affect the deployment calculus. The viability of a strategy based on existing deployment patterns could be dramatically altered should access to the Suez Canal change.

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) participate in a replenishment at sea on Sept. 7, 2012. U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) participate in a replenishment at sea on Sept. 7, 2012. U.S. Navy Photo

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Atlantic Naval Forces Have a Future

Atlantic Naval Forces Have a Future

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Since Congress passed the “Two-Ocean Navy Bill” in 1940, the U.S. Navy has been sized to operate simultaneously in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. First during the Second World War and then later against Soviet naval forces, the “Atlantic Fleet” held the line against America’s enemies.

USS Harry S. Truman underway in the Atlantic on Sept. 5, U.S. Navy Photo

USS Harry S. Truman underway in the Atlantic on Sept. 5, U.S. Navy Photo

Today, with the high-end threats in the Atlantic Ocean subdued, the Navy has called for posturing “credible combat power” in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. One question I am often asked is if this will result in a diminished role for U.S. naval forces on the Atlantic coast as the Navy turns its attention to the Indo-Pacific region. The answer: Far from it. Our East Coast forces will continue to play a major role in regions beyond the geographic scope of their “Atlantic” posture, taking the lead in contributing to sea control and power projection missions in the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean while also performing ballistic missile defense, constabulary, intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance, and partnership-building missions in the Southern Command, Africa Command and the European Command areas of responsibility.

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