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CHALLENGES IN PIVOTING IN THE PACIFIC

CHALLENGES IN PIVOTING IN THE PACIFIC: THE PERSPECTIVE OF MARFORPAC

13 Jun 13. In a follow up interview with Lt. General Robling, MARFORPAC, the challenges of executing the Pivot to the Pacific were discussed.

In the earlier interview, Lt. General Robling underscored the centrality of persistent presence as a core element of shaping an effective strategy and capability for the US in the Pacific.

The USMC is a key element of the US Pivot to the Pacific. The USMC is really at the center of the pivot to the Pacific.

The USMC is not only redeploying in the region but enhancing its role as a rotational force as well.

As Col. John Merna, the Commanding Officer of the 31st MEU put it in a recent interview: In one sense, the Marines are going back to the force levels we had in the region prior to 9/11. So it is simply a restoration rather than a build up or build out. But the way the force is being configured is very different. We are emphasizing building out a rotational force, notably in Australia, but elsewhere as well. The USMC is itself “pivoting” in the Pivot to the Pacific. USMC forces in
Okinawa are moving partly to Guam and the Marines are shaping a new working relationship with the Australians in Western Australia. In fact, they are the lead force in re-shaping the U.S. presence in the Pacific over the next few years.

SLD: With the budgetary challenges, what are some of the biggest potential hurdles to effectively rebalancing the force to the Pacific from the USMC perspective in the Pacific?

Lt. General Robling: A major element for us in rebalancing is getting the 10th ARG shaped for deployment out of San Diego.

We are looking for this ARG to be a key anchor in the area, and notably to work with the Australians. In addition to that, additional strategic lift of all types (C-17 aircraft, JHSV’s, TAKE’s or MLPs, super ferries, etc) will be required to move forces around this expansive AOR which comprises over 52% of the earth’s surface.

(For the significance of Australia in reforming force structure in the Pacific see the following: http://www.sldinfo.com/australia-prepares-for-its-new-amphibious-assault-ship-an-aussie-perspective-for-bold-alligator-2013/).

The CNO and the Commandant have recently underscored in a joint article the importance of amphibious ships and theater lift like JHSV vessels and we need the assets they emphasized. They are crucial to the persistent presence, which I discussed earlier.

The region is clearly strategically significant. To operate we need to have the range, speed and lift necessary to be effective. Nonetheless, the Air Force trying to get rid of some of their C-17s, and the Navy is trying to reduce amphibious lift to pay for other ships and it’s going to be difficult if such cuts happen.

This means as well that innovation needs to be rewarded and encouraged.

We might even think about augmenting the types of platforms, which could allow us to do effective innovation.

For example, the T-AKE ships are proving to be very effective and very
versatile. Unlike some ships, the T-AKE can operate with the Osprey on board. And as such, we could provide ways to better use elements of the amphibious force. Currently we keep the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) in ready reserve for HA/DR or emergency extractions. We could do the same mission with a T-AKE ship if we had enough of them.

SLD: Recently we looked at the kind of reform the Australian Army is undergoing with changes associated with amphibious lift and other approaches to greater mobility. How important is the USN-USMC team to the kind of land power reforms going on in the region?

Lt. General Robling: All of our forces are important to the security of this region, but I believe the USN-USMC team is strategically more important than any of the others.

While seven of the 10 largest land armies in the world reside in the Pacific region, many of those Armies are now concentrating

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