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Why U.S. Needs Amphibious Skills (Page 2 of 2)

But we have work to do. In a blog post from last year, Adm. John Harvey, head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, wrote that the military has neglected the Navy-Marine Corps team’s core amphibious competency of: “prompt and sustained amphibious expeditionary operations from the sea” over the last decade during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To sharpen its skills, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will undertake their largest amphibious exercise in a decade, Bold Alligator 2012 (BA-12). This joint and multinational amphibious assault exercise, which I will attend as an observer, will take place this week and include participants from Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom. Over a two week period, BA-12 will include three large-scale events, including an amphibious assault at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; an aerial assault from the sea into Fort Pickett, Va.; and an amphibious raid on Fort Story, Va.

For its part, Congress must recognize the value of our Navy-Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities in our naval arsenal, and support this team with the financial resources their mission requires. While the Marine Corps has stated its objective of maintaining 38 amphibious ships to meet Combatant Commander demands, the current FY12 30-year shipbuilding plan provides for only 33. This places the Combatant Commander demand of 18 ships well above the average of 9.2 ships the Navy was able to provide for deployment from 2007 to 2010. Even more disconcerting, despite the Obama administration’s emphasis on the Asia-Pacific theater and naval forces in its new Strategic Guidance, it now plans to cut two older LSD-41 class dock landing ships and delay the next LHA-7 amphibious assault ship. These cuts and delays represent a trend in the wrong direction. 

As we proceed into the 21st century, sea power will take on an increasingly important role in our national defense policy. Bold Alligator 2012 will provide a stage for our amphibious forces to not just hone their skills, but to demonstrate the utility of their amphibious capabilities to elected officials and the broader Nation. I look forward to being a partner in this effort to enhance the capability of the Navy-Marine Corps team and articulate its enormous utility to the American public and our friends and allies.

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Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., is chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee and founder and co-chairman of the Congressional China Caucus.

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