Panetta explains Pentagon’s ‘pivot’ toward Asia

David Cloud. Los Angeles Times, 01 June 2012.


…the Pentagon plans to increase the Pacific fleet from 50 warships to 58, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the plans on condition of anonymity.

In addition, Panetta said that more than 40 Navy ships in the Pacific would be replaced with “more capable and technologically advanced ships” over the next five years.

But the number of warships “forward deployed” at any one time — operating in Asian waters rather than moored in San Diego or other U.S. ports — will grow by only four, from 23 to 27, by 2020. The reason: It is far less expensive to base troops, ships and planes in U.S. ports than abroad.

The six aircraft carriers now assigned to the Pacific will drop to five later this year. An additional carrier, now under construction, is scheduled to enter the fleet in 2014, returning the number to six.

Several hundred Marines have begun rotating into northern Australia on a training mission, and the force may grow to as many as 2,000 by 2016. But U.S. troop levels in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere in the region are likely to remain flat.

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