Sunday, July 01, 2012

Bases and Places

I've said that the "pivot" to the Pacific is more political--to reassure Asian allies--than real, since the shift to the Pacific has been ongoing ever since the Soviet Union collapsed. Not that this political reason isn't useful. It is and signals our interest and objectives.

But let's not think that our Navy pivot is putting a new armada in Asia. Let's look at the map the Navy provides [oops, I failed to preview to see if it really fit--now it does]:

By 2020, we'll have 8 more ships in the western Pacific. That's the pivot. Of course, Central Command, which faces Asia from the south and controls China's access to Middle East and Africa resources, gets 9 more ships. So a pivot to Asia-Pacific is happening. And arguably, the increase in ships in Europe is aimed at Asia since those ships will be anti-ballistic missile capable destroyers to counter Iranian missiles. Further, the pivot doesn't require the Atlantic to lose any more ships. The increase is purely the result of anticipated growth in the size of the battle fleet from 285 to 295. Will that really happen given our financial problems?

Of course, I'm not sure what the map is showing. The numbers add up neither to total ships nor deployed ships, but a number between. Clearly, this is a fudge between home-based and deployed forces, as the admiral giving the briefing seems to indicate:

Well, what you'll see, Sam, is, if I forward deploy four ships in Rota, they're always deployed. They are always on a tether and available to that combatant commander, very much like the forces in -- in Japan are available. So, for example, when you look at that 50 and that 55, 23 of those are out there in the forward- deployed naval force. They're available to the combatant commander at any given time.

Yet even though the admiral divides up the western Pacific forces, the numbers add up if you only include those triple-number boxes that presumably only include forward deployed ships. But "forward deployed" ships will include not only ships that deploy from bases in the United States but ships based in places in Japan, in Bahrain, and in Spain.

It would be better to have totals for all areas showing home-porting minus deployments forward with a separate forward deployment number in the area of deployment. So for 2017, you'd show the 23 forward-deployed ships (based only in Japan?) plus 27 sent forward from the West Coast and Hawaii. The eastern Pacific would show the ships at home minus the 27 deployed to the western Pacific.

I know this is a dynamic number that has to include forces in transit between deployment areas and home ports (Is that what the numbers in the boxes by the east and west coasts of the continental United States really indicate? No, right now we have 168 vessels deployed or underway, more than the totals for all boxes in 2013), but the numbers as is just aren't that useful. Perhaps that's the point, I suppose.

As an aside, it is amusing that we have "bases" on United States territory, but just "places" abroad.