Academic journal article Military Review

A Revolution in Power Projection: Ready, Set, Go!

Academic journal article Military Review

A Revolution in Power Projection: Ready, Set, Go!

Article excerpt

POWER PROJECTION in the 21 st century will change little in concept but more in execution. Technological advances and resulting doctrinal changes will require agile minds and nonregimented approaches if US forces are to take full advantage of new opportunities.

The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, released Joint Vision 2020 in May 2000. The document extended and refined the concepts expressed in the earlier 2010 version, building on 21 st-century development and transformation. The new vision's primary focus "remains a joint force capable of full spectrum dominance, persuasive in peace, decisive in war, and preeminent in any form of conflict."'

Four significant operational concepts from the 2010 vision remain as the 2020 vision foundation: dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics and full-dimensional protection. As the US Army moves ahead, it is taking a cautious approach, and rightly so. Unnecessary change is risky business. According to the current Army Posture Statement, changes will be condition-based; advances will be implemented only after carefully considering the conditions necessary to integrate the advance.

While changes are taking place, the Military Sealift Command (MSC) stands ready to help strategically pre-position Army equipment and supplies to global hot spots. The MSC also welcomes the opportunity to exercise the system with realistic tests of the pre-positioning force, Concurrently, MSC's surge sealift is adding new capabilities to rapidly transport sustainment and resupply materiel. These three concepts-pre-position ing, exercises and surge sealift-allow Army forces to perform combat missions where and when directed and for as long as required.

Currently 37 MSC pre-positioning ships are strategically located in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and near Guam and Saipan in the western Pacific Ocean. The ships carry supplies and equipment for the combat services and fuel for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).

The US Marine Corps pre-positions equipment and supplies to support a Marine air-ground task force of up to 17,400 Marines for as long as 30 days. Like US Navy vessels, Air Force pre-positioning vessels carry a variety of munitions. Three tankers carry fuel for DLA's Defense Energy Supply Center. The remaining pre-positioning vessels carry an Army heavy brigade with two armored and two mechanized infantry battalions, port-opening gear, sustainment supplies and other support material.

Pre-positioning ships include long-term-charter commercial vessels, activated Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships and US Navy ships.2 Civilian mariners crew MSC-contracted ships, and federal civil service employees crew DLA fuel tankers. By participating in more than 100 exercises annually, MSC pre-positioning and surge ship crews train continuously for real-world contingencies.

To respond to a crisis, warfighters need to deploy as quickly as possible with gear and sustainment supplies. Rapidly deploying large amounts of equipment and supplies by surge sealift is critical to sustainment beyond the 30 days of materiel aboard prepositioning ships. Fast sealift ships (FSS); large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships (LMSR); and the US Maritime Administration's RRF are the backbone of MSC's surge sealift capability, offering almost 10 million square feet of capacity.

Ready: Pre-positioning

The equipment, ordnance and supplies needed to conduct any large joint military power projection must move by sea; this has always been the case for the United States. Since the closure of many US overseas bases, sealift has become even more vital to Army regional operations.

Pre-positioning afloat began in the early 1980s to improve the response time for delivering urgently needed equipment and supplies to a theater of operations. Two decades earlier, the US Army had stored brigade-strength equipment aboard ships moored off Okinawa. …

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