Well, you know what the poet said about the best plans of mice and men. We had been scheduled to participate in the blogger’s roundtable today with RADM Stevensen regarding the standup of 4th Fleet. Alas, our day job intruded with unplanned, last minute tasking but the host, Jack Holt graciously submitted our questions during the roundtable. Full transcript may be found here and the audio file here.

The question we were particularly interested in had to do with support. Having spent a good portion of our years batting (some will get the pun) about the AOR, we note that a good portion of the infrastructure, such as it was even then, has subsequenly been closed down and, well, let’s go to the tape:

And we would hope, as the Joint High Speed Vessel program gets going, that we could do that, or that the Navy decides to renegotiate some contracts,and that we can get those types of vessels, because it’s not only just what we do. It’s the capabilities that they can bring to any service down here, kind of like an afloat staging base, if you will, with a number of endless possibilities that you could embark up on it.

MR. HOLT: That kind of brings up the question that Steeljaw Scribe sent in to me. And it is, his question is, quote, “With the decline of the supporting infrastructure in the region and the closure of naval stations Roosevelt Roads and Rodman, et cetera, how sustainable do you see the Fourth Fleet’s small unit presence in the AOR, particularly outside the Caribbean?”

ADM. STEVENSON: Well, right now I would think that if you do an analysis of the countries — I mean, 15 years ago, there wasn’t any democracies in Central or South America, period. And this year, if you look, you’ll see just about all democracies with the exception of one and a couple that are very, very far left. But that is the good thing. And the good thing about that is that they welcome the United States into their ports, and so the at-sea sustainment really isn’t an issue.

However, if you look at, you know, the capabilities that the United States have — has if you have have a big-deck amphibious ship, if you have aircraft carriers, if you have high-speed vessels, then essentially you can kind of have your own afloat staging base, where, you know, acting as mother ships and can refuel ships, and we can maintain our presence down here, and we can maintain our cooperation through exercises and training venues and what have you.

So I think it’s dependent, and I think that’s the huge value that our Navy brings in some of its core competencies, which is its forward presence and the ability to sail anywhere, any time and sustain itself. And we’re doing that right now with the deployment of the George Washington Strike Group.

Happenstance has the George Washington shifting home ports from Norfolk,Virginia, to Yokosuka, Japan, and we took advantage of it. And right now they’re — have already visited Brazil. They’re conducting the UNITAS exercise on the Atlantic side of South America with Brazil and Argentina, and they’ll be circumnavigating South America and going up the western coast of South America and hitting a couple of countries there, doing another exercise before they even go to San Diego and on to Yokosuka. So it’s timing. It’s preparations. It’s, you know, the force allocation around the globe on where we think that we ought to put our assets.

And I think the Navy’s posture’s pretty good right now.

Hmm, seabasing anyone?

Think about it — the AFSB concept has already been operationally demonstrated twice (IKE and Kitty Hawk) and there is plenty of talk about a mother ship concept with LCS or perhaps with a new corvette. What better place to work on proof of concept than in the 4th Fleet AOR? Minimizes footprint ashore as well…and afterall, what’s the MS say?

The Sea Services will establish a persistent global presence using distributed forces that are organized by mission and comprised of integrated Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard capabilities. This global distribution must extend beyond traditional deployment areas and reflect missions ranging from humanitarian operations to an increased emphasis on counter-terrorism and irregular warfare. Our maritime forces will be tailored to meet the unique and evolving requirements particular to each geographic region, often in conjunction with special operations forces and other interagency partners. In particular, this strategy recognizes the rising importance and need for increased peacetime activities in Africa and the Western Hemisphere.

from which flows the next imperative

Although our forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and cooperation cannot be surged. They must be built over time so that the strategic interests of the participants are continuously considered while mutual understanding and respect are promoted.

Indeed, it will be most interesting to see what and how concepts are developed and incubated in 4th Fleet’s AOR that are in turn, deployed in Africa and Asia.

sea basing