Richard R. Burgess, Seapower
3 February 2016
ARLINGTON, Va. — A defense analyst told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) the nation could put more teeth into its rebalance to the Asia-Pacific by considering stationing a second carrier strike group in the region and increasing the number of attack submarines forward deployed in the area.
Dr. Michael J. Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, agreed with SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said that “we should take a hard look at the tradeoffs of stationing a second carrier in the [Western] Pacific.”
Testifying Feb. 3 before the SASC, Green said the Navy should study deployment of a second carrier and suggested that the commissioning of the next carrier, Gerald R. Ford, might be an opportunity to add it to the forward-deployed naval forces in Japan. He pointed out there would need to be additional basing for a second carrier air wing, and that possibly Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, could be expanded to accommodate it.
Green said that when the Navy first stationed a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — USS George Washington — in Japan “there was not a lot of pushback in the Japanese press.”
He also recommended that the Navy station additional attack submarines in the Western Pacific, a move seconded by retired Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, former deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Command, who testified along with Green.
“We just don’t need to restrict ourselves to Japan,” Conant said of basing a second carrier. “We could look at putting it someplace else,” listing Guam and Australia as possibilities.
“That submarine force is very capable and if I had a dollar I would spend it on the submarine force,” Conant said. “Nobody can match our submarine crews.”
Conant specifically noted value of the “special collection missions” performed by the submarines.
“For a credible deterrent, submarines are at the top of the list,” Green said.
Green opened his remarks with the assertion that the rebalance toward Asia and the Pacific needed more intense strategic conceptualization and resourcing.
He said defense budget constraints, a growing anti-access/area denial threat, the increasing Chinese tolerance for risk and the agitations by North Korea as the main elements of instability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Green recommended that the United States align its Asian military strategy with other allies and partners, including moving to a federated defense; expanding regional presence; creating a new joint task force for the Western Pacific with a standing command-and-control structure with allies; and putting more innovative technologies in the region, such as the electromagnetic railgun, for ballistic missile defense.
Green also said the “friction we have in the South China Sea is not going away, whether the Chinese economy slows down or not.”
Opening the hearing, McCain noted that the Chinese were “not done with their land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea,” with 3,200 acres built up into usable land. However, he said the United States would continue to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
“We need more of these freedom-of-navigation operations,” Green said.