The US has approximately 150,000 troops stationed at close to 860 bases and sites in nearly 150 foreign countries at a cost of about $65 Billion annually (does not include troops, bases, and costs for Afghanistan). The justification for these bases included reconstruction in Eastern Europe and Japan after World War II, containment of the Soviets and communism, the Korean War stalemate, reaction to new security threats, and the need to project American power and influence throughout the world.
Currently, our leaders are tied to a land based military strategy that emphasizes the need for troops on the ground and stationed on a network of foreign bases. The short-comings of this strategy are significant:
• America can become entangled in the politics and turmoil of the host nations which places US bases in jeopardy.
• Our expensive and extensive land-based infrastructure limits the ability to maneuver or reposition US troops to meet new threats overseas.
• Large segments of the host nations’ populations do not want American bases in their homelands.
• Once we have troops on the ground, US military leaders are reluctant to pull them out, leaving no exit strategy.
• The host nations can put unwanted constraints on our operations or direct us to leave one or more bases.
With the enormous technological advances made in weapons systems, stealth ships and planes, communications, unmanned drone aircraft, satellites, long range guided missiles, and smart bombs, America has the means to completely rethink how to project American power without being tied to a costly, post-Cold War network of military bases and sites scattered around the world. The alternative to the land based strategy centers on expanding the capabilities of the Navy and migrating to a water based, power projection concept of operations. The Navy already possesses extensive capabilities with its ships, aircraft, submarines, and Marine Corps. An Aircraft Carrier Strike Group can be positioned anywhere on the seas to deal with current crises or quickly repositioned to counter a new threat. Former President Bill Clinton stated that “when word of a crises breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident that the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: where is the nearest carrier?” With nearly fifty percent of the Navy’s ships and submarines nuclear powered, US carrier strike groups can remain at sea for extended periods of time. And with 71% of the earth’s surface covered by oceans and seas, the Navy is free to operate and project American power and protect our interests and allies anywhere in the world. Under this scenario, we would be able to radically downsize the 860 bases and sites and use the savings to increase the capabilities of the Navy.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA”, visit:
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