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Report: Move more subs, amphibs to Asia-Pacific region

Jul. 31, 2012 - 05:06PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 31, 2012 - 05:06PM  |  
The Navy attack submarine Mississippi makes its way up the Thames River toward its homeport in Groton, Conn. A new report recommends that three East Coast attack subs be moved to Naval Base Guam.
The Navy attack submarine Mississippi makes its way up the Thames River toward its homeport in Groton, Conn. A new report recommends that three East Coast attack subs be moved to Naval Base Guam. (Lt. j.g. Jeffrey Prunera / Navy)
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The Navy should deploy more amphibious ships and submarines to the Asia-Pacific theater, and the Marine Corps should rethink its plan to move 4,700 Marines from Japan to Guam, according to a new report by a Washington think tank.

The congressionally mandated report by the Center for International and Strategic Studies offers a number of suggestions to rebalance U.S. military forces after years of war and bolster combat capabilities in the U.S. Pacific Command area. Authors David J. Berteau and Michael J. Green, the center's co-directors, propose a shift of forces away from Northeast Asia — Japan and South Korea — and more toward Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, and Australia. "The stakes are growing fastest in South and Southeast Asia," they wrote.

The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee plans to take up the center's "independent assessment" at a 2 p.m. (EDT) hearing tomorrow.

The report suggests that the Navy base a second squadron of three attack submarines at Naval Base Guam, moving them from homeports on the East Coast, which would double "asymmetrical advantages in undersea warfare."

While it did not explicitly say so, the report indicated that it would be a good idea to move fewer Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam, despite the Corps' plan to establish four Marine air-ground task forces — one each in Hawaii, Japan, Guam and Australia.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in comments sent to CSIS, contended that moving fewer than 5,000 Marines to Guam "would undermine our plan to establish multiple, fully capable (MAGTFs) across the Asia-Pacific region."

The current plan "ensures that individual MAGTFs can respond rapidly to low-end contingencies [e.g., humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or counter-piracy] while also ensuring that the force can aggregate quickly to respond to high-end contingencies."

That MAGTF concept hinges on the Japan moves, which would send: 1,700 Marines to Guam, with another 3,000 rotating in and out via the unit deployment program; 2,700 to Hawaii; and 2,500 to Australia, according to the report. About 10,000 Marines would remain on Okinawa.

Either way, CSIS hopes that Congress and the Defense Department will end their impasse over plans for and the funding of the transfer of Marines from Japan to Guam.

The report recommends basing an amphibious ready group in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, because the existing ARG in Sasebo, Japan, "does not provide full coverage" for III Marine Expeditionary Force. Moving an ARG from the East Coast to the Asia-Pacific region would support and make "functional" the Marine Corps' vision of four MAGTFs.

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