The U.S. Army plans to set up equipment depots–so-called equipment activity sets–in a number of Asian countries, including Cambodia and Vietnam, the top officer of the U.S. Army’s Materiel Command said at a conference, Defense News reports.
General Dennis Via, speaking at this year’s Association of the United States Global Force Symposium and Exposition, said that the Army plans to set up eight equipment activity sets around the globe. However, Asia-Pacific equipment activity sets will differ from other equipment caches that the Army maintains in, for example, Europe, the general notes.
“Army prepositioned stocks are go-to-war equipment,” Via explained when discussing European activity sets. According to Breaking Defense, the European equipment depots hold 200 M1 Abrams heavy tanks 87 tanks, 138 M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and 18 M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers.
The Army Materiel Command also recently sent 5,000 tons of ammunition to Europe, the largest delivery of its kind since the end of World War II. General Via explained that it is the responsibility of his command to “provide our Army and the joint force with strategic reach, allowing units to quickly deploy and fall into equipment that is highly modernized.”
The equipment activity sets in Cambodia and Vietnam will contain lighter equipment primarily for humanitarian and disaster relief operations, according to Via. “Throughout the Pacific Rim, these will be humanitarian assistance/disaster relief-type equipment and material, so that when you have typhoons and other types of natural disaster U.S. Army Pacific Command can respond more quickly,” Via said, according to Breaking Defense. “We are looking, for example, at in Cambodia placing a combat support hospital.”
Furthermore, the general also emphasized that one reason for the establishment of additional equipment caches is saving money. “We remain in fiscally challenging waters. We are constantly looking for ways to gain the most out of every federal dollar,” Via said.
Nevertheless, Via’s plan are certain to be politically controversial.
Even if the materiel stationed in Cambodia and Vietnam does not include go-to war equipment and will primarily be used for humanitarian and disaster relief operations, it nevertheless will send a powerful message to China and will amplify Beijing’s sense of slowly getting encircled by the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
Stockpiling U.S. military equipment in Cambodia and Vietnam would mean a de-facto small permanent presence of U.S. Army personnel in those countries. This could create useful spillover effects and deepen cooperation between the United States and Asia-Pacific countries with no permanent U.S. military bases.
It remains to be seen how the plans of the Army Materiel Command will affect overall Sino-U.S. relations and in what way Beijing will feel compelled to ‘retaliate.’ It is also unclear whether these plans could still unravel in the face of domestic opposition in Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as in other countries.