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At The Crossroads With Amphibious Shipping
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - General
-TEXT- 
                       EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 
Title: At The Crossroads With Amphibious Shipping
Author: Major M. W. LaVigne, United States Marine Corps
Thesis: If the dramatic decline in amphibious shipping is allowed
to continue, it will severely limit this nation's ability to
execute its stated national security strategy.  Therefore, to
maintain the nation's amphibious lift capability, we must prolong
the service of current amphibious ships and allocate funds to
immediately begin construction of adequate replacement amphibious
ships.
Background: Amphibious forces are uniquely able to support
America's national security strategy.  They provide forward
presence and crisis response.  The visible presence of the United
States military forces in regions vital to national interest is
key to averting crises, preventing wars, and demonstrating
American participation in global affairs.  The United States must
effectively respond to crises as they occur, with the goal of
deterring conflicts or resolving them by force.  Amphibious
forces, because they are forward positioned and expeditionary in
nature, have frequently been the first called to respond to a
national security crisis.  The United States must maintain
amphibious forces of sufficient size and capability to meet the
nation's forward presence and crisis response needs.  The
reduction of our overseas bases has greatly impacted our ability
to provide forward presence and crisis response.  Without those
bases, and given the distance from the bases that we do maintain,
we must operate from the sea.  Obtaining the vessels to provide
adequate amphibious lift capability to meet future requirements
will be expensive.  Replacing those vessels with modern ships will
require increased investment at a time when the defense budget is
being significantly reduced.  In the past, certain types of Navy
ships enjoyed a high priority for limited funding.  However, the
changes brought on by the end of the Cold War will diminish the
need for procuring additional Trident ballistic missile
submarines, nuclear attack submarines, and guided missile
destroyers.  Thus, the share of the shipbuilding budget available
for other programs, particularly amphibious ships, could be
increased when these categories of ships lose their high priority.
Recommendation:  The Congress of the United States must allocate
sufficient funds to begin building amphibious ships of sufficient
size and capability to meet the nation's security strategy policy
now.  The Navy must extend the service life of the current
amphibious fleet to maintain current capabilities and buy time to
construct future amphibious shipping.
            AT THE CROSSROADS WITH AMPHIBIOUS SHIPPING
                             OUTLINE
Thesis: If the dramatic decline in amphibious shipping is
allowed to continue, it will severely limit this nation's ability
to execute its stated national security strategy.  Therefore, to
maintain the nation's amphibious lift capability, we must prolong
the service of current amphibious ships and allocate funds to
immediately begin construction of adequate replacement amphibious
ships.
     I.   Amphibious lift supports national security strategy.
          A.    Forward presence
          B.    Crisis response
     II.  Declining amphibious lift reduces ability to meet demands.
          A.    Few replacement ships
          B.    Block obsolescence
          C.    Reduction in overseas bases
     III. Requirements for amphibious lift.
          A.    Provide humanitarian response
                1.   Operation Eastern Exit
                2.   Operation Sea Angel
                3.   Operation Fiery Vigil
                4.   Operation Restore Hope
          B.    Project power in regional crises
                1.   Operation Sharp Edge
                2.   Operation Desert Storm
          C.    Achieve 12 ARG objective/LX
          D.    Support "From the Sea" doctrine
     IV.  Attaining adequate amphibious lift.
          A.    Extend operational service life
          B.    Re-allocate budget to construct replacement vessels
                1.   Defense cuts
                2.   Post-Cold War priorities
                3.   Shipbuilding budget
           AT THE CROSSROADS WITH AMPHIBIOUS LIFT
        Amphibious forces are uniquely able to support America's
  national security strategy.  They provide forward presence and
  crisis response.  The visible presence of the United States
  military forces in regions vital to national interest is key to
  averting crises, preventing wars, and demonstrating American
  participation in global affairs.  American superiority at sea
  must be clearly recognized and respected by friends and
  potential adversaries.  "History suggests the futility of
  attempting to predict exactly when, where, and how any potential
  foreign threat will challenge our national interests."1  History
  also compels the nation's leaders to assume that some threat
  will arise, possibly on short notice.  The United States must
  effectively respond to crises as they occur, with the goal of
  deterring conflicts or resolving them by force.  Amphibious
  forces, because they are forward positioned and expeditionary in
  nature, have frequently been the first called to respond to a
  national security crisis.  The United States must maintain
  amphibious forces of sufficient size and capability to meet the
  nation's forward presence and crisis response needs.
        To meet the political and military requirements for forward
  presence and crisis response, the United States must maintain
___________________
        1Defense Builddown and Inventory Management Hearings, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Washington, DC, February 26, 27, and 28, 1992, p. 116
enough amphibious lift capacity to transport the assault
echelons of two and one half Marine Expeditionary Brigades
(MEBs).  It requires the transport of roughly 45,000 troops;
1,077 thousand square feet of vehicle storage; and 2,490
thousand cubic feet of cargo storage.  The United States Navy
currently meets this requirement by operating a fleet of 60
amphibious warfare ships.  However, many of these ships are
reaching the end of their service life.  Most of the ships in
today's amphibious fleet were built in groups, with the ships in
each group built at about the same time.  For example, all 20 of
the Newport class Tank Landing Ships (LSTs) were commissioned
into service between the years 1969 and 1972.  Each LST has a
projected service life of 30 years.  "Shortly after the turn of
the century, 45 of today's current inventory of amphibious ships
will reach block obsolescence."2  As shown in Table 1, only
eight amphibious ships are currently funded to replace these
retiring ships.
     America's amphibious lift capability will decrease
significantly as these ships reach block obsolescence and are
removed from active service.  If this dramatic decline in
amphibious shipping is allowed to happen, it will severely limit
this nation's ability to execute its stated national security
strategy.  Therefore, to maintain the nation's amphibious lift
capability, we must prolong the service of current amphibious
___________________
     2Statement of Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps, to the Subcommittee on Projection Forces and Regional Defense, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Washington, DC, May 5, 1992, p. 10.
ships and allocate funds to immediately begin construction of
adequate replacement amphibious ships.
                             TABLE 1
                      Funded Amphibious Ships
Type                     Laid Down        Launched    In service
                         Helicopter/Dock Landing Ships
LHD 3 Kearsarge          4-12-89          26-3-92       9-93
LHD 4 Boxer               8-1-91               93       9-94
LHD 5 Bataan               . . .           . . .          97
LHD 6 Bon Homme Richard    . . .           . . .       . . .  
                              Dock Landing Ship
LSD 49 Harpers Ferry     15-4-91            10-92      12-93
LSD 50 Carter Hall       8-11-91               93       1-95
LSD 51 Oak Hill             9-92           . . .          95
LSD 52 Pearl Harbor        . . .           . . .       . . .
Source:  The Naval Institutes Guide to Combat Fleets of the World 1993 Their Ships, Aircraft, and Armament.
     Several factors have increased the requirement for
amphibious forces, while conflicting domestic pressures have
limited the resources to support them.  One obvious factor is
the reduction of permanent bases overseas.  The closing of many
United States overseas bases increases the need for
strategically mobile forces.  "The number of nations in which
the United States has overseas bases has declined from more than
100 at the end of World War II to fewer than 40 in l989."3  This
decline in overseas bases places a higher priority on amphibious
forces that are comparatively free from foreign basing and
overflight constraints.  The visible proof of continuing United
___________________
     3Moving the Marine Corps by the Sea in the 1990s, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC, October 1989, p. 9.
States interests in important world regions will increasingly
depend on the presence of forward-deployed, politically
flexible, amphibious forces.  "Whether as a phase within the
construct of a major naval or continental campaign or as prelude
to political reinforcement operations, amphibious operations lay
the ground work for subsequent military and/or political
action."4  No other force in the United States inventory
possesses the combined forcible entry capability and staying
power of amphibious forces.  Amphibious forces can immediately
respond to the nation's strategic security requirements.
Amphibious forces are inherently mobile, but they provide more
than strategic mobility.  They provide a capacity unmatched by
aircraft for transporting men, equipment, and sustainment.
     Forward presence is the keystone of America's diplomacy.
It contributes to conflict prevention and lends credibility to
alliances.  "As the global security environment changes,
additional reduction in forward stationed forces may be
appropriate.  However, as forward stationing decreases, forward
presence operations will increase in importance."5
     Amphibious forces support the mission of maintaining a
peacetime presence.  They are employed as a show of force in
support of diplomatic leverage and to signal United States
interests and intentions.  The presence of United States naval
forces around the world is a continuing reminder of the
___________________
     4The Role of the Marine Corps in the National Defense, FMFM 1-2, United States Marine Corps, June 21, 1991, P. 3-15.
     5Inside the Pentagon Vol. 9, No. 7, February 18, 1993, p. 10.
potential costs of aggression to would-be adversaries.  These
forces also provide the nation with a wide range of ready
capabilities to deal with unexpected contingencies.  "In the
years since World War II the United States has employed military
force as a political instrument some 200 times.  Of these, four
out of five involved naval forces, and the majority of naval
efforts included Marines embarked in amphibious ships."6
     Forward-deployed amphibious forces project American
military expeditionary power in regional crises.  Capitalizing
on this distinct capability, amphibious forces are able to
conduct a variety of operations around the globe.  As
demonstrated in the examples below, amphibious forces were
called on many times in recent months to conduct political
reinforcement, humanitarian, and military operations.
     Operation Desert storm was not the only crisis to which
amphibious forces responded in 1991.  An amphibious force
demonstrated the capability to quickly establish a presence
during Operation Sharp Edge.  From July 1990 until January 1991,
amphibious forces provided security for the United States
embassy in Liberia during that country's violent insurrection.
Because the amphibious force was able to remain on station for
an extended period, they were able to react to changing
conditions ashore.  Eventually, the crisis required the
amphibious force to evacuate over 2,400 civilians from Liberia.
___________________
     6The Role of the Marine Corps In the National Defense, FMFM 1-2, United States Marine Corps, June 21, 1991, P. 3-12.
	In January 1991, amphibious forces on station in the
Persian Gulf to support Operation Desert Storm were diverted to
Somalia.  They executed a dramatic, long-range rescue of 260
American citizens and other non-combatants from civil-war torn
Somalia.  This operation, code-named Eastern Exit, was
accomplished in less than three days over a distance of 2,000
miles.  Returning from Operation Desert Storm in May 1991,
amphibious forces were again diverted to provide desperately
needed humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh.  Over 1.7 million
people were assisted following devastating floods in that
country.  Code-named Operation Sea Angel, the amphibious force
delivered over 2,000 tons of food, fuel, and medicine.  During
Operation Fiery Vigil, amphibious forces provided emergency
services, cleanup assistance, and evacuation support following
the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.
They safely evacuated over 17,000 people during this natural
disaster.  Each crisis required a wide variety of political
reinforcement and humanitarian responses; all were successfully
accomplished by amphibious forces.
	Amphibious forces provide the capability for forcible entry
and the amphibious assault.  These forces provide essential
advantages of tactical surprise and force concentration.
Finally, amphibious forces provide considerable value as a
strategically mobile threat capable of attacking at a multitude
of different points.  "An amphibious force located 400 nautical
miles from shore is able to launch an amphibious assault against
any point along more than 1,000 miles of coastline within 24
hours."7  Uncommitted, amphibious forces will compel the enemy
to divert resources to cover areas of likely amphibious
employment.  For example, Operation Desert Storm demonstrated
that strategic distraction can serve as a significant drain on
enemy resources.  The 4th and 5th MEBs stationed in the Persian
Gulf caused Iraq to divert 10 divisions from the Southern Kuwait
border to concentrate on the coastline.  This weakened Iraq's
defenses along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border.
     However, the ability to forward-deploy amphibious forces
depends on the availability of sufficient numbers of amphibious
ships to maintain a sustainable deployment cycle.  The current
numbers and types of ships are operating beyond reasonable
capacity to meet the demands placed on them today.  Any
reduction in current amphibious lift capabilities will severely
restrict the nation's ability to adequately respond to crises
with the preferred mix of amphibious ships.
     The Marine Corps' most recent experience in Somalia,
Operation Restore Hope, dramatically demonstrated the need for
additional amphibious ships.  The amphibious ready groups (ARGs)
that supported Operations Desert Shield and Storm experienced
extraordinary operational and personnel tempos.  In an effort to
recover normal operating schedules, only three amphibious ships
were made available to the ARG deployed to the Indian Ocean.  As
a result of the reduced shipping, the 15th Marine Expeditionary
___________________
     7Moving the Marine Corps by the Sea In the 1990s, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC, October 1989, p. 10.
Unit (MEU) was confronted with reduced square and cubic footage
and insufficient troop berthing capacity.  This situation caused
the 15th MEU to leave needed equipment and personnel behind.
Consequently, when the ARG was sent to Somalia, they lacked
essential troop supplies and vehicles, such as trucks and
material handling equipment.  Critical items needed in the
operation, such as ground mobility assets, engineering
equipment, and surface raiding craft, were not available to the
commander of the 15th MEU.  "The operational fact is that the
Navy/Marine Corps team is short amphibious ships.  The situation
will worsen as the amphibious force is down sized from 60 ships
today to 48 ships in FY-98."8
     In his February 1993 letter to the Secretary of Defense Les
Aspin, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Kelso referred to the
Navy's strategy as "Force 2000 From the Sea."  This comment
suggests that the new Navy fleet would be built around the
principles outlined in the Navy's From the Sea maritime
strategy.  The principle focus of this maritime strategy is to
support the nation's security strategy.   "Our naval forces will
be full participants in the principle elements of this strategy:
strategic deterrence and defense, forward presence, crisis
response, and reconstitution."9  This represents a fundamental
shift away from open-ocean warfighting on the sea toward joint
operations conducted from the sea.  As a result this new
___________________
     8Inside the Pentagon Vol. 9, No. 7, February 18, 1993, p. 11.
     9Marines Vol. 21, No. 12, December 1992, p. 14.
strategy requires a greatly expanded need for amphibious ships.
"The Navy is emphasizing forward presence and amphibious forces,
just as the From the Sea doctrine calls for."10
     The solution must address the needs stated in the national
security strategy and work within sound fiscal constraints.
The solution must also provide for adequate amphibious lift
capability in the near term as well as the long term.  The
current level of amphibious lift must be maintained in the near
term if the United States is to provide a credible forward
presence and crisis response capability.  However, the United
States must also embark on a program to construct replacement
vessels to meet long term needs.  The new vessels must be
designed with increased capabilities to meet future
requirements, including the ability to launch amphibious
assaults from over the horizon.
     To meet our near term needs, the Navy must extend the
operational service life of amphibious ships an additional five
years.  During the 1960s, the Navy built amphibious ships in
groups, and many of the ships in each group will reach the end
of their expected service life at about the same time.  If the
Navy retired ships after the scheduled 30 years service, then 45
of the current total of 60 amphibious ships would have to retire
by the year 2002.  However, by extending the retirement age to
35, only 13 of the 60 current amphibious ships would have to
retire by 2002.  Does a solution for retirement at 35 years
___________________
     10Inside the Pentagon Vol. 9, No. 6, February 11, 1993, p. 8.
simply put off the problem of having to replace a large number
of ships by the year 2007?  The answer is yes, but postponing
retirement may be necessary.  It will allow the United States to
retain its current amphibious lift capability until adequate
replacement ships are procured.
	The nation's objective of maintaining a military presence
in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the Arabian Sea, requires
three ARGs assigned to each of the three regions, with three
additional ARGs in reserve.  An ARG consists of three to five
amphibious ships, which provide both forward presence and crisis
response capability.  Each ARG consists of at least one LHD or
LHA amphibious assault ship, which forms the nucleus of the ARG,
and two or more additional amphibious ships.
	As shown in Table 2, 45 ships will reach block obsolescence
by the year 2002.  Without additional ships, the amphibious
fleet will decline to 23 amphibious ships, consisting of 11
LHD/LHAs and 12 LSD 41s.  However, if the aged amphibious ships
are replaced with new, well-designed ships, fewer ships may be
needed to achieve the 12 ARG objective.  The LX class amphibious
ship is designed to provide adequate space for equipment,
troops, aircraft, and supplies to support the configuration of a
three ship ARG.  In fact, if only 12 LX class ships, and one
LHD, are built to replace the 45 ships reaching block
obsolescence, an amphibious fleet of 36 ships can be maintained.
This would support the 12 ARG objective with the minimum
expenditure of funds.  Each of the 12 ARGs would consist of an
LHD/LHA, LSD, and LX.  It also achieves the level of support
required by the national security strategy.
                      TABLE 2
      Amphibious Ships Reaching Block Obsolescence
Class          Quantity  In Service  30 Year Service  35 Year Service
LPH Iwo Jima       7         1970         2000             2005
LPD Austin        11         1971         2001             2006
LSD Anchorage      5         1972         2002             2007
LKA Charleston     4         1970         2000             2005
LST Newport       18         1972         2002             2007
Source: Jane's Fighting Ships 1991-92.
     The key to the long term solution is to budget the
necessary funds to replace the aging amphibious ships.
Anticipating continued defense cuts, the Navy plans for a
320-ship Navy which is trimmed of the older warships.  With the
implementation of "Force 2000 From the Sea," the Navy will
eliminate 140 ships by the year 1999 through the early
retirement of older submarines, destroyers, cruisers, frigates,
and conventional aircraft carriers.  This will provide
significant savings on the operating and maintenance expenses of
the older weapons systems and on the salary and training of
personnel that operate them.  A prudent approach for the Navy
would be to set aside a portion of these savings to construct
adequate amphibious ships to support their doctrine From the
Sea.
     With the dramatic change in the world political climate,
the mix of naval vessels needed to meet future challenges has
changed.  Funds currently allotted to shipbuilding programs that
will have a reduced role could be re-allocated to support an
amphibious ship rebuilding program.  "Between 1950 and 1989, the
share of funding accorded to amphibious ships varied widely,
from nothing in some years to as much as 21 percent in
others."11  On average, amphibious ships received only 6 percent
of the budget authority in the Navy's Shipbuilding and
Conversion (SCN) account.  The SCN is the account through which
the United States Congress funds the construction of new
vessels.  Continued efforts to reduce the budget deficit will
almost certainly include pressure to reduce defense spending,
which may result in increased limits on shipbuilding funds.
	In the past, certain types of Navy ships enjoyed a high
priority for limited funding.  "Between 1981 and 1989, programs
for the Trident submarines, nuclear attack submarines, and
aircraft carrier escort ships (cruisers and guided-missile
destroyers) consumed about 60 percent of the shipbuilding
budget."12  During the same period, amphibious vessels received
only 8 percent of SCN budget.  However, the changes brought on
by the end of the Cold War will diminish the need for procuring
additional Trident ballistic missile submarines, nuclear attack
submarines, and guided missile destroyers.  The need to maintain
14 deployable aircraft carriers, based on the post-Cold War
___________________
     11Moving the Marine Corps by the Sea in the 199Os, Congressional Budget
Office, Washington, DC, October 1989, p. 40.
     12Moving the Marine Corps by the Sea in the 199Os, Congressional Budget
Office, Washington, DC, October 1989, p. 42.
threat, also appears to be unnecessary.  Therefore, there should
be no requirement to replace the Forrestal and  Kitty Hawk class
aircraft carriers, which will reach the end of their expected
service life late in the 1990's and early in the next century.
Thus, the share of the shipbuilding budget available for other
programs, particularly amphibious ships such as the LX, could be
increased when these categories of ships lose their high
priority.
	The United States has entered the post-Cold War era.  The
reduction of our overseas bases has greatly impacted our ability
to provide forward presence and crisis response.  Without those
bases, and given the distance from the bases that we do
maintain, we must operate from the sea.  Obtaining the vessels
to provide adequate amphibious lift capability to meet future
requirements will be expensive.  Replacing those vessels with
modern ships will require increased investment at a time when
the defense budget is being significantly reduced.  In spite of
the cost, America cannot afford to wait much longer.  It takes
four years from the time Congress authorizes the purchase of an
amphibious ship to the date the vessel is delivered.  Therefore,
the Congress of the United States must allocate sufficient funds
to begin building amphibious ships of sufficient size and
capability to meet the nation's security strategy policy now.
The Navy must extend the service life of the current amphibious
fleet to maintain current capabilities and buy time to construct
future amphibious shipping.
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15. Sharpe, Captain Richard., ed. Jane's Fighting Ships 1991-1992. Coulsdon, 
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