Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine Cheyenne (SSN 773) shift colors as the submarine moors in Apra Harbor, Guam, to conduct liberty and maintenance. Cheyenne is conducting operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (MCS 1st Class Jeffrey Jay Price / Navy)
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A fourth Navy submarine will be added to the three “forward-deployed” submarines to Guam in a little more than a year, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said Monday.
Carter said the deployment of a fourth submarine to Guam will occur in fiscal 2015, which begins in September next year. He did not name the submarine that's being deployed to Guam.
As Carter made the announcement, the Navy submarine Charlotte, was heading toward Western Pacific waters.
Charlotte left Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on April 2 for a scheduled six-month deployment, the Navy in Hawaii confirmed. The Charlotte can be equipped with Tomahawk missiles, navy.mil states.
The deputy defense secretary made the announcement to station a fourth submarine to Guam at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington while reiterating the Defense Department's plan to shift more forces toward the Asia Pacific.
As announced by the Pentagon last year, 60 percent of the U.S. Navy's assets would be assigned to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020 — a substantial and historic shift, Carter said.
Guam currently is home to Los-Angeles-class, fast attack submarines Key West, Chicago and Oklahoma City, information from the Navy website states.
The Key West arrived on Guam in November last year, trading places with the Buffalo, which was moving from Guam to Honolulu.
Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said submarines “are re-emerging in the (international) security environment.”
He said there are about 300 submarines in the world today and the United States has the most advanced and the best submarine crew.
Sen. Harry Reed asked Locklear at the hearing if submarines are the preferred “weapons class” other countries seem to be competing with the U.S.
India, China, Malaysia and even Vietnam are expanding their submarine capabilities, Reed said.
Locklear said there's “a general trend around the globe” that countries want to be able to protect their exclusive economic zones through their waterways, while some countries would like to project power with submarine acquisitions.
Another component of the plan to shift U.S. military forces to and within the Asia-Pacific region — specifically on reducing the presence of Marines in Okinawa and moving several thousand of them to Guam, Hawaii and Australia — was discussed at the Senate Armed Services Committee oversight hearing yesterday.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said: “while I support the concept of re-stationing Marines from Okinawa to Guam, it must be done in a fiscally and operationally sound manner.”
Levin said he and Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Jim Webb, who did not seek re-election last year, “advocated” for the United States and Japan to revisit its 2006 agreement that includes the military buildup on Guam. Both countries announced revised changes to the plan last year. Levin said the revised plan “reflected an appreciation by both governments of the need to make adjustments in order to support the goal of achieving a more viable and sustainable U.S. Marine presence in Japan, on Guam and elsewhere in the region.”
“The Department of Defense is currently working to develop the details of this new plan and the final construction schedule and total costs are not yet known,” Levin said. “After we receive that plan we will be in a position to judge it. But until that plan is forthcoming, the committee has deferred action on associated requirements until previously adopted conditions are met.”
The initial buildup cost was estimated in 2006 at more than $10 billion and would have involved moving 8,000 Marines and about 9,000 of their dependents to Guam.
The revised plan would move about 4,700 Marines to Guam, about 2,500 to Darwin, Australia and about 2,700 to Hawaii, a report last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows.
At the hearing, McCain asked Locklear when the buildup master plan would be submitted as requested by the Armed Services Committee and the Congress.
Locklear said he didn't have a date for when the Office of the Secretary of Defense would submit the master plan.