Home » News & Analysis » Independent U.S. Rebalance to the Pacific Report Calls for Study of Second Carrier Based in 7th Fleet

Independent U.S. Rebalance to the Pacific Report Calls for Study of Second Carrier Based in 7th Fleet

USS Antietam (CG-54), right, steams alongside USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). US Navy Photo

USS Antietam (CG-54), right, steams alongside USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An independent review on the U.S. rebalance to the Pacific concluded the U.S. should study forward deploying a second carrier to the Western Pacific, one of the authors said before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. The study from the Center of Strategic and International Studies echoes call to station a second U.S. Navy carrier from SASC chair Sen. John McCain and a second independent review of Navy force from late last year to study forward deploying a second nuclear carrier to U.S. 7th Fleet.

The CSIS report came short of recommending the move but indicated crunching the numbers on what it would take warranted further study.

“We didn’t come out with a hard recommendation on this because there are operational questions, cost and infrastructure questions,” Michael Green with CSIS said in response to a question from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

The most likely location for a second carrier would be alongside the existing U.S. forward deployed carrier berth in Yokosuka, Japan but while there is space for the carrier questions linger where to put the accompanying airwing.

“If you deploy this new carrier in Yokosuka you have to find a place for the airwing. [Marine Corps Air Base] Iwakuni, could be expanded but that’s a political lift for the Japanese government in terms of host nation support,” Green said.

When the CSIS report was released last month, the notion of deploying a second carrier to the Western Pacific received press attention in Japan “and there was not a lot of push back. A number of the senior officials and military officers in Japan were quite intrigued because of the signal it sends and the firepower it brings,” Green said.
“It addresses a concern our allies have – the 7th Fleet’s one carrier is out of [U.S. Pacific Command] a lot. They watch that. They would have constant coverage – what in their view in an increasingly difficult region.”

That difficulty is resident primarily in China’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) expansion and increased presence in the South China Sea and the East China Sea with a government in Beijing that is comfortable with taking more risks militarily, Green said.

“We’re probably going to be living with this [friction] for five our ten years because its built into the PLA’s operational concepts, force structure, their doctrine. The Foreign Ministry and others in the China system are not going to knock them off of that trajectory. In my view: it’s if the Chinese economy slows down or not.”

Chinese president Xi Jinxing onboard PLAN destroyer Haikou. News.cn Photo

Chinese president Xi Jinxing onboard PLAN destroyer Haikou. News.cn Photo

The CSIS report also outlined the inconsistent presentation of the goals of the U.S. Pacific rebalance by Washington and how tightening up the message could send a clearer signal to China and U.S. allies.

“The kind of networking cooperation that incentivizes China to play within the rules, the kind of capacity building for the Philippines and for smaller micro states, so they can handle earthquakes and tsunamis in a way where they’re not vulnerable strategically and where we have a trade agreement, that’s what we should be thinking about,” Green said.
“If we do think in those terms it will add some discipline to how the administration and others articulate our strategy… We’re not looking to contain China, we’re looking for a rules base order and here’s how it might look with our relationship with our allies and other partners. ”

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Conant, former deputy commander of Pacific Command and an advisor on the report, said the United States needs to send “a clear and concise message [on] what rebalance means.”

China has become more assertive for a number of reasons, Green said. That includes President Xi Jinping not coming from that part of the Communist Party that holds Deng Xiaoping’s more accommodating view of Beijing’s role in the world. It also arises from the mistaken conclusion Chinese leaders drew from the 2008-2009 financial crisis impact on the United States that “America’s best days are over” as a great power.

To nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam who see an expansionist China, “they want more of us,” but “they don’t want bases,” Green said. He suggested a model might come from the rotational movement of U.S. forces or even patrol vessels from Japan in and out of those countries, similar to that in Australia.

“An elective security arrangement like NATO, almost no one wants that… that would produce a China we don’t want, Green said.
“We’re not looking to contain China, we’re looking for a rules base order and here’s how it might look with our relationship with our allies and other partners.”

Even with China’s economy slowing from 9 percent growth to between 3 to 4 percent annually, Green warned against making the same mistake China made with the United States eight years ago. He said the results could be “a more humble China” or a “more nationalistic and grumpy” nation in five years.

As for the slowdown affecting the Chinese military modernization drive, especially in its maritime forces, Conant added, “I don’t see it slowing down.”

  • Eric Arllen

    Rebalancing is tough to pull off when there isn’t too very much available for rebalancing. Yet more evidence the Navy has shrunk way too much. The silly games continue as we distract ourselves from the real problem – we need fund many more ships, aircraft and sailors if we hope to continue as the premier world naval power. Rebalancing is a nice idea, but it is meaningless so long as we aren’t willing to pay the freight to grow the fleet.

    • not THAT jim

      And we should stop dumping money down the LCS rat hole !

      • johnbull

        With the geo-political situation over there, it’s an idea that is overdue. Where to put the second carrier? I guess that Japan is the only feasible option. Guam probably isn’t big enough to support one, Pearl Harbor would still be too far away I guess, and I doubt that Subic Bay could be built up enough for a CVN in the foreseeable future, even if the Philippino government would let us permanently station such ships there.

        • @USS_Fallujah

          I heard the price to restore Subic to support 1985 level naval activity was estimated at $5B, I have no idea how long that would take though, probably 3 years at least.

          • Bill Wright

            Going back to the Philippines would be like remarrying the same spouse again. It didn’t work the first time even with all the concessions made by the United States to the Philippine government, what makes you think it will work this time.
            The $5B dosen’t take into account the “considerate” paid to the GOP for allowing us a base(s) there.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            What are you talking about with considerate pay and the GOP?
            I also disagree on the remarrying theory, some circumstances change and other’s stay the same. The Philippines have had a nice long breather from US presence and the strategic circumstances with the PRC makes they appear much more amenable to a new partnership. Once that will be by necessity much more equal than that which evolved from the long history of US forces there from the 1890s and post-war.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    I heard mention that a 2nd CVN in Japan would actually reduced the air wing requirements as the 2 CVNs would share significant portions of their air wing (it was referred to as 1.5 CVWs), the same would also be possible to some extent among escorts, though in both cases you risk running the ragged with more (but shorter) deployments making maintenance harder (and likely meaning far more flight hours for the aircraft). Those are serious issues, but I’m also concerned about how quickly the USN/USMC could deploy additional air assets if/when both CVNs would be deployed at the same time, USMC squadrons could deploy aboard the CVNs and then be backfilled with aircraft rotated in from Guam, Hawaii or California, but timing and logistics of such a rotation would be problematic. Balance that of course against the time and cost “wasted” by having CVNs from San Diego or the Seattle bases steam the 6-7k miles from the west coast to Taiwan.

    • Bill Wright

      Thailand Royal Air Force bases in U-Tapao & Udorn where jointly shared with the US during Vietnam and are still in operational states with support facilities for a variety of aircraft. The Thai Royal Naval base at Sappathip would offer a sheltered harbor with sufficient repair support. If there’s a major repair that couldn’t be preformed there, the carrier could transit to Yokosuka since there’re set up to handle the fwd carrier home-ported there. This would solve the logistics plus reduce AC maintenance . I’m sure the Thai government & Royal family would welcome the return presence of American forces along with the boost in their economy this joint venture would bring.

  • John King

    We can’t afford to expand the US Navy, given our $18 trillion in national debt. But we should SELL an entire carrier battle group to Japan so THEY can take a real role in THEIR national defense. We need less direct US involvement and more of our “allies” to pay up for their own protection. We can make it an easy financial transaction and simply cancel the value of an American carrier battle group from the $800 billion or so in US Treasury bonds Japan owns. (I don’t care WHICH Japanese individuals, banks, companies really owns the bonds. Just cancel them. The Japanese can sort it out.)

    • Michael Rich

      That’s the dumbest idea I ever heard. No one is going to sell a carrier battle group, nor would japan even buy it.

      • John King

        Not so dumb. We sell used equipment to our allies all the time. Might just as well sell it off earlier, when its still high-value, high-performing. Plus, if you truly integrated those allies into the order of battle (1,000 ship navy) from a DAILY operational construct (not just some annual training exercise), then such a sale is just a substitute, not a diminishment of forces. But it would reduce the US cost, or, if you want to keep the US budget steady, create headroom for other military toys.

        • Secundius

          @ John King.

          Your Right, “Not So Dumb”? IDIOTIC IDEA!!!

        • Joey P

          Why would Japan buy the equipment when they, like our European allies and South Korea, can count on the US to provide the equipment and manpower?

        • TomG

          They are constitutionally limited on spending 1% of their budget on their military… a constitution WE WROTE, without ANY Japanese input.
          They fund a halfway decent military, despite being one of the most pacifistic countries on earth, with a stagnant economy and a declining population. Don’t squeeze blood from a stone.

          • John King

            If Japan feels so threatened by China, with whom they do lots of business, let them defend themselves. End their alleged pacifism, Change their constitution and rearm themselves even more. Otherwise it’s just meaningless chatter meant to keep American taxpayers subsidizing Japan while they sell their cars and trucks in the U.S. and drive our auto manufacturers out of business, sending a million Americans into welfare.

          • TomG

            You do realize Japanese automakers employ more workers in the US than American ones do? That Subaru’s and Toyotas are assembled in Indiana?

    • Tony

      It think this is a great idea. What have we earned for 100 years’ worth of blood and money spent saving Europe’s backside? Nothing but their continued disdain. Let the Europeans handle their problems, and let the Asians handle theirs. Are we going to be the big brother forever?

      • Joey P

        Nicely put.

      • Bill Wright

        So if push comes to shove, you would rather fight a unified Europe or Asia rather than an individual foe in either theater ! Divided we
        FALL – United we STAND come to mind.

    • PolicyWonk

      The Japanese, by virtue of their own laws, are not allowed to own “aircraft carriers”.

      Which makes the entire discussion useless.

  • PolicyWonk

    To nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam who see an expansionist China, “they want more of us,” but “they don’t want bases,” Green said.
    This is called “picking your poison”: either accept bases, or live with the increased threat.

    Then, providing the above issue is resolved, then one needs to ask, where the second carrier (and accompanying protective force, etc.) is coming from? Its nice for the hawks like McCain in the GOP to strongly desire increases in our navy deployments and ship counts – but they need to fix the economic and revenue problems they caused from 2001-2008, that led to the Great Recession we’re still trying to recover from.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, two of the biggest mistakes imposed on this nation were: 1. The massive tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans (unfunded); and 2. The largest increase in corporate welfare programs in history (also unfunded).

    Rescinding these tragic mistakes would go a long way to restoring our economic balance. But hoping what is by far the worst performing HoR in US history will fix any of the problems they created is a pipe dream at best. They’d rather waste taxpayer time posturing and worthlessly voting to rescind laws they haven’t a prayer of getting passed.

    Then of course, there’s always replacing what is arguable the worst acquisition system on the planet (well… at least in the western world) would save this nation a tremendous amount of money. The US taxpayer easily gets the lousiest deal for defense dollar spent of any nation in the western world.

    • Joey P

      And Obama has nothing to do with the increase of bombing into Iraq and Syria by US armed forces?

      • Bill Wright

        Took a lot of arm twisting to even get him to order the first bomb. Enough pressure and even he breaks.

  • John B. Morgen

    If there is going to be a second carrier base, it really should be base at one of Australia’s naval bases.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Even though it’s is not a large island. I still favor Guam as an unsinkable aircraft carrier with the Air Force putting a couple of hundred A/C there. To support a second CV. Or the U.S. could buy some islands and let the AIRFORCE occupied them. Or one better, lets just merger the army, navy, marines, coast guard, Airforce, department of health in to one. just put tags on the one work uniform, ground, air, sea, rectal, , no dress uniforms, no ribbons or medals. all this pc garbage is just disgusting. Pull everything back and set up a 1000 mile no entry zone.