The Need for Forward Prepositioning
Gen. Joseph Went, USMC (Ret.)
In Chapter 9, Gen. Duane Cassidy and Adm. Albert Herberger marked "strategic mobility" as the key to a viable shift from a U.S. military posture primarily reliant on forward-deployed forces to one increasingly dependent on power projection from CONUS. It is important to point out, however, that there is one element of strategic mobility that will continue, by definition, to be forward deployed. That element is prepositioning--the emplacement and storage of military equipment in strategic locations, ready for use by U.S. forces.
Indeed, strategic lift (by air and sea) and prepositioning are integral parts of a single strategic mobility equation. How those parts overlap and interact was demonstrated in Operation Desert Shield. On August 7, 1990, nine Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) and five Afloat Prepositioning Force Ships (APF) set sail toward the Persian Gulf from their stations in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. On the same day, the order was also given to deploy eight Fast Sealift Ships (FSS) from the United States. There were substantial differences between those two forms of deployment. The MPS and APF vessels were at sea, fully crewed and ready to sail upon order. The FSSs, on the other hand, were located in various ports on the U.S. East Coast, manned by skeleton crews and maintained so as to be able to be underway within ninety-six hours of the order to deploy.
The prepositioning ships reached the Persian Gulf almost two weeks before the first FSSs. On August 9, an additional twelve AFPS, loaded with Army and Air Force equipment and supplies, were ordered out of Diego Garcia. Once the ships of the MPS and APF fleets discharged their original cargoes in Gulf ports, they either joined the continuing, massive sealift effort or served as sea-based