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U.S. Bases In The Philippines
AUTHOR Major Michael F. Kimlick, USMC
CSC 1990
SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy
                EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
     If the U.S. wants to maintain its influence and
presence in the Pacific Rim, the bases in the Philippines
are necessary to carry out that mission.  With the perceived
reduction in the Soviet threat, the need for forward-
deployed forces and overseas bases is on the decline.  In
the Philippines, due to the U.S. lack of generosity with
military and economic aid, there is a growing feeling that
the lease on the bases should not be renewed.
     The bases in the Philippines support U.S. global
strategy and are at the center of Washington's forward
deployment strategy in the Pacific.  Subic Naval Base and
Clark Air Base are the two major bases.  Subic Bay is the
support base for the U.S. Seventh Fleet.
     For the Marines aboard the Amphibious Ready Group the
bases in the Philippines serve a definite purpose.  After
departing CONUS there is no other opportunity for the Marine
Expeditionary Unit (MEU) commander to off-load from the
ships in one location and conduct realistic training to
maintain its warfighting ability.
     Although there are other alternatives if the leases for
bases in the Philippines are not renewed, none of them offer
the U.S. a centralized location where the Navy is able to
take care of its needs as well as the MEU being able to
conduct training.  This combination gives the U.S. the best
ability to project itself in the Pacific.
     THESIS STATEMENT.  With all the pros and cons being
discussed in maintaining bases in the Philippines, the one
argument being ignored and needs to be given higher priority
is that a MAGTF afloat needs a place to train to maintain
its warfighting skills.
     I.   Location
            A. Presence in Pacific region
            B. Stepping-stone for further operations
     II.  Logistics
            A. Naval-Naval Supply Depot
            B. MAGTF
               1. GCE
               2. ACE
               3. MSSG
     III. Repair Facilities
            A. Naval Ships-Ship Repair Facility
            B. Aircraft-engine and aircraft rework
     IV.  Training
            A. GCE-practice supporting arms coordination
            B. ACE-maintain and increase CRP
            C. MSSG-exercise CSS assets
            D. MEU-integrating training
     V.   Other Southeast Asian Options
     VI.  The MEU still needs to accomplish all its training
          needs after leaving CONUS and be located in one
          location with the Amphibious Ready Group.
     With all the pros and cons being discussed in main-
taining U.S. bases in the Philippines, the one argument
being ignored and needs to be given a higher priority is
that the Marine Corps needs a place to train its WESTPAC
MAGTF afloat to maintain its warfighting skills.  To
maintain U.S. influence in the Pacific Rim and if U.S.
policy dictates that the U.S. should maintain a forward
presence in the Pacific, our bases in the Philippines are
necessary to carry out that mission.  This issue can be
viewed from our National Security Interests, National
Strategy or Military Strategy.  These issues will be
covered, but the main focus of this paper will be toward
what the bases in the Philippines mean to our MEU
Commanders.  These MAGTF Commanders are task with being the
cutting edge of the sword of our foreign policy.  If our
policy as directed by the politician should fail, then as
Carl Von Clausewitz stated in his book, On War, "War is a
mere continuation of policy by other means."  Our MAGTF's
afloat need to be ready to use force to reach the political
     As Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev attempts to steer
the Soviet Union into the 21st century with his Glasnost/
Perestroika reforms, and with Communist regimes crumbling in
Eastern Europe, there is a perceived reduction in the Soviet
threat.  With the Soviet Union reduction in force, the
desire for the host country to want a U.S. presence will be
on the decline.
     Aside from the massive political changes developing in
Eastern Europe, the Asia-Pacific region is the most dynamic
region in the world today.  It is an area where the growing
economic and political influence of its nation is having
global impact, and where the interests of four world powers,
the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and Japan
intersect.  And it is a region in which, for probably the
first time in its post-World War II history, economic and
political concerns have taken precedence over security
     Growing nationalism in noncommunist developing Pacific
nations has become one of the most important political
challenges the U.S. faces as it considers its future
presence in this region.  Open alliance with the U.S. or any
other great power is viewed as an infringement on the
independence of nations in the region.  Although they do not
want the U.S. to leave the region because of the economic
and security advantages they derive from a U.S. presence,
military forces on their soil, particularly if doing so
would involve a long-term military presence.
     In addition, external security considerations and the
need for external protection are figuring less prominently
as Pacific nations, particularly in Southeast Asia, direct
their attention toward internal societal problems.  When an
external threat is considered, Southeast Asian nations
regard Japan, Korea, and China, not the Soviet Union as a
longer-term problem.  This attitude creates difficulties for
the U.S., which sees its interests threatened by a
continuous Soviet influence and presence in the region.
     The U.S. defends its interests throughout the world by
forward-deploying its forces and structuring this forward
defense around a coalition of allied and friendly nations.
In the Pacific region, the U.S. maintains military forces in
mainland Japan, Okinawa, Guam, South Korea, and the
     In Japan our defense ties are formalized by the United
States-Japan Treaty of Cooperation.  Although we took
responsibility for her defense after WWII, a consensus has
emerged in both the U.S. and Japan that Japan should
undertake the primary responsibility to defend its own
homeland, territorial seas and skies.  In 1985 the
government of Japan incorporated that concept into its
current Five-Year Defense Plan.  Japan's defense spending
has increased more than five percent per year in real terms
for the past five years and Japan has been encouraged to
continue modernizing its forces in order to carry out its
legitimate defense responsibilities. (6:30)   Presently our
biggest U.S. force there now is the Air Force with two
tactical fighter wings.  Both the Navy and Marine Corps also
have several bases there, most notably naval facilities and
air bases.
     Although part of Japan, Okinawa needs to be addressed
as a separate issue.  Okinawa comes under the umbrella of
the Japanese Defense Force but our military commitment on
the island has a completely different mix of U.S. forces.
It has one major Air Force Base and a small naval facility
for logistic support.  The majority of the military
facilities belong to the Marine Corps which has one air
station and several bases scattered over the island.
Okinawa has been the home of the 3rd Marine Division and 1st
Marine Aircraft Wing.  With the expansion and growth of the
Okinawa economy, the development on the island has started
to erode and undermine the capability of the bases to have a
strategic impact in the Pacific region.
     Guam, a U.S. territory, has both Navy and Air Force
facilities.  It has a harbor with some berthing capacity and
a small ship repair and resupply facility.  In addition,
Anderson Air Force Base has the capability of handling the
largest U.S. aircraft in the inventory and the ability to
absorb more assets if needed. (5:58)
     In South Korea the U.S. Army is the largest force in
the country.  Their main mission is not to maintain U.S.
influence over the entire Pacific Rim but to deter the North
Koreans from crossing the 38th Parallel and attempting a
Communist take-over.  This alliance with South Korea remains
vital to their regional stability and builds confidence in
the effort to maintain economical development and political
evolution. (6:31)
     The bases in the Philippines are by far the largest in
the Pacific and have been the U.S. staging area for
maintaining a naval presence in the region.  The bases
support military deployments in East Asia and the Persian
Gulf as part of the U.S. global strategy and are at the
center of Washington's forward deployment strategy in the
Pacific. (11:40)  In addition to this strategic objective,
the bases play a role in maintaining stability in the region
by providing a countervailing force to Soviet expansionary
designs in the Pacific.
     The bases were established as a consequence of the
American colonial occupation of the Philippines in 1898.
When the Philippines gained independence in the early
forties, the continued use of the bases was agreed upon
between the Philippines and the U.S. in an Executive
Agreement.  After WWII Clark and Subic were established to
provide not only protection to the Philippines but a general
umbrella of security and surveillance to the Pacific.  The
original Military Base Agreement which was to run for 99
years was revised in 1966 with the "lease" being reduced to
25 years.  In 1975, a new agreement decided on compensation
for the Philippines. (7:105)  The agreement was amended in
1979 to give full recognition of Philippine sovereignty over
the bases, provide for Philippine command of all bases and
return substantial areas to Philippine military control.  In
1988 the Philippines and the U.S. signed an agreement
permitting the U.S. to continue operating its naval base at
Subic Bay and its air base at Clark Field for two more
years, until 1991. (4:1)
     Today the status of our bases in the Philippines
remains ambiguous.  The renewal of leases for the U.S. bases
continues to be a much debated issue in both countries.
There is a growing feeling among the Manila political elite
that a negotiated, phased withdrawal of the bases is
inevitable.  They support the view that the U.S. has not
treated the Philippines well during base negotiations and
that during future talks concerning the bases they would
take into account the U.S. lack of generosity. (10:36)  The
Philippine government accused the Bush Administration of
reneging on pledges of military and economic aid.  At issue
is a $96 million cut Congress made at the Bush administra-
tion's request of $360 million to compensate the Philippines
for Clark, Subic and four smaller U.S. facilities. (4:1)
Defense Secretary Richard Cheney warned the Philippine
government that the budget situation in Congress was
undergoing significant reductions with competing foreign aid
demands. (1:1)
     Filipino sentiments toward the U.S. and its military
bases have been eroding this past decade.  Filipino
intellectuals perceive the presence of the bases as an
extra-territorial act of the U.S. imposed on the
Philippines. (2:203)  The bases are seen as a vehicle that
serves mainly the national interest of the U.S., enabling us
to project power throughout the Pacific Basin.
     For most Filipinos, their concerns are more insular in
nature.  The nationalists among the Filipinos object to the
subtle and not too subtle influences of the U.S. in
Philippine political and economic affairs as a result of the
strategic importance of the bases. (2:204)  They view U.S.
influence as not conducive to the development of the
Philippine national identity.  Unlike the nationalists, the
pragmatic Filipino looks at the presence of the bases as
something that could be tolerated if more economic benefits
could be derived from them. (9:38)
     The current Philippine political situation should not
be overlooked.  The Aquino government continues to face
major political, security and economic challenges.  The
Communist Insurgency, which had gained momentum from
poverty, injustice and past military abuses, has suffered
several major setbacks since 1988.  With the breached in the
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) security and the
noted success of the army's Special Operation Teams, the
military have achieved good results in winning back the
confidence of the people. (10:36)  President Corazon
Aquino's economic reform needs to continue to alleviate the
plight of the poor to undermine the CPP's attempt to regain
support of the people living below the poverty line.
     With the turn of events in the Philippines, President
Aquino's biggest threat may not be from the CPP but her own
military.  Disgusted with the poor pay and treatment along
with the corruption that seems to run rampant through the
higher echelons of government, military officials have been
calling for reforms.  Further hurting President Aquino's
credibility has been her failure to make good on land
     There have been six coup attempts, with the latest
being in December 1989.  This attempt by rebel military
forces was the bloodiest coup yet.  U.S. Air Force F-4 jets
out of Clark helped the Aquino government put down the coup
by flying over Manila pinning rebel aircraft on the ground
and provided an important psychological boost to loyal
troops.  The odds are that the Aquino Presidency will not
survive until the 1992 elections. (8:18)
     The U.S. operates several military facilities within
the Philippines.  Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base are
the major components of these facilities.  The naval
facilities at Subic Bay comprise the primary port, training
area, and logistics support base for the U.S. Seventh Fleet,
while Clark Air Base is the headquarters of the Thirteenth
Air Force.
     Besides the naval base at Subic, there is the Naval
Supply Depot, Ship Repair Facility, Cubi Naval Air Station,
Aircraft Rework Facility, Aircraft Jet Engine Power Plant
Shop and some outlying facilities, such as a communication
station that supports the U.S. Pacific forces.
     For the Marines aboard the Navy ships that form that
Navy-Marine Corps Team known as the Amphibious Ready Group
(ARG), consisting of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the
Subic complex is like an oasis in the middle of a desert.
From these facilities they can draw all of their logistic
support to carry on their mission.  The Naval Supply Depot
not only is able to support the Navy ships of the ARG, but
the three elements of the MEU, Ground Combat Element (GCE),
Aviation Combat Element (ACE) and the MEU Service Support
Group (MSSG) is also able to tap into the supply system,
restock itself and take care of critical needs and
     The facilities at Subic also provide for the mainten-
ance and repair of military platforms and equipment, they
employ a highly skilled local work force. (5:21)  The Ship
Repair Facility (SRF) does an extensive amount of ship
repairs, both planned and unplanned.  Due to the cost
savings, navy ships often rely on the SRF to do their major
work during their WESTPAC deployments rather than U.S.
shipyards.  The Aircraft Rework Facility and Jet Engine
Power Plant Shop offers the ACE repair capability that they
can not get aboard the ship from the Intermediate Level
Division.  This service can become critical in maintaining
aircraft availability if they should require it outside of
     To the MEU Commander, besides all the services
available to maintain the ships he sails on or the aircraft
and vehicles he commands, the facilities at Subic offer the
opportunity to train and fire their weapons.  After leaving
CONUS, life aboard ship mainly consists of standing in line
three times a day on the mess deck and listening to classes
being given in an environment that is probably too hot, too
crowded and too noisy.  That lean, green, well oiled
fighting machine that smoked through the MCCRES has been
reduced to a lethargic, sluggish Battalion Landing Team
(BLT) in dire need of getting off the ship and stretching
their legs.
     This is what makes the bases in the Philippines so
unique compared to the other U.S. bases scattered through-
out the Pacific.  Here is where the MEU gets the opportunity
to conduct realistic training for each of its combat
elements plus the opportunity to combine them.
    The biggest concern for a MEU Commander should be the
physical condition of his GCE after an extended stay aboard
ship.  There is no opportunity to maintain any resemblance
of staying in combat shape.  Even the Marines who are
deployed on board the helicopter carrier of the ARG  are in
competition for flight deck time with the ACE conducting
flight operations.  The other ships with smaller flight
decks just do not have the facilities for the Marines.
     For target practice, if given the opportunity and if it
can be scheduled around flight ops or the ship's training
schedule, the Marines may get the opportunity to fire their
small arms off the fantail of the ship.  Although not very
realistic, it does give them the practice of cleaning carbon
off their M-16's.  This combination of being unable to
maintain their physical conditioning and with very limited
marksmanship training, it deteriorates the combat
effectiveness of the individual Marine in the GCE.
     The training areas around the Subic complex offers some
of the best training for Marines in the world.  The
opportunity to regain their legs can be accomplished through
simple Company runs or for the more adventurous,
conditioning hikes can take you up the famous and well known
"Seven-Steps".  The Jungle Survival School is also available
and provides a good opportunity for the Marines to learn how
to live off the land in the climate they are expected to
fight in.  A rifle and pistol range is also available for
the MEU to use for practice firing or qualification. Other
combat skills such as patrolling can also be practiced in
the training areas, the training officers imagination would
be his only limitation.
     The Zambalis Training Area, across from Subic Bay Naval
Station, is the best live fire range in the Pacific.  On
Green and Red Beach a BLT can fire anything from a M-16 to
the M-198.  Besides having the opportunity to fire all their
weapons, the GCE is afforded the opportunity to conduct
supporting arms coordination training.  Classes and
wargaming is nice, but being able to move your BLT to a
field environment to exercise your Fire Support Coordination
Center where you can integrate the artillery, tank, motors
etc., in a constructive scenario offers training that can
not be duplicated anywhere else.  Tactical Air Control Party
can also be conducted at Wild Horse Creek.
     For the ACE, life aboard ship will be nonproductive.
Helicopters will fly, helicopters will break, and
helicopters will get fixed.  Living and working spaces will
be cramped and the troops will have twenty-four hours a day
vice eight to do their job.  Training itself will come to a
stand still.  The majority of the flying will be devoted to
Pax, Mail and Cargo (PMC).  Day and night carrier
qualifications and formation flying is the range of training
that can be accomplished off the ship.  The aggressive and
innovative squadrons will conduct Evasive Maneuvering (EVM)
with other helicopters or the AV-8B's if they are attached
to the ACE.  But this training with fixed wing aircraft is
only partially effective over water.
     After being aboard ship an extended period of time,
Cubi Point Naval Air Station and the surrounding training
areas offers the ACE an opportunity to maintain and increase
its Combat Readiness Percentage.  The ranges have certified
TERF routes and areas to conduct Night Vision Goggles (NVG)
Training, both Phase I and Phase II.  The ACE will also be
able to conduct EVM with the aggressor aircraft from VC-5
who are trained to fight using Soviet tactics.  Dissimilar
Combat Maneuvering can also be accomplished utilizing
another squadron if they happen to be deployed to Cubi Point
for training.
     Live fire training for Close Air Support and Close In
Fire Suppression can be accomplished for the AV-8B, AH-1T's
and UH-1N's utilizing Wild Horse Creek.  Starting in
approximately 1985, the MEU started to get access into Crow
Valley, the Air Force Bombing Range outside of Clark Air
Field.  The Crow Valley Range is situated so that the ACE
can put together a training exercise to fully integrate AV-
8B operation with helicopters, using all the current
tactics, live ordnance and having it accomplished in a
realistic scenario.
     The MSSG also benefit from an extended port call at
Subic Bay.  It affords them the chance to exercise their
off-load plan, work out of a field environment at the Lower
MEF Camp and fix their equipment.  They can also adjust and
change their load plan when re-embarking the ships.
     For the MEU Commander, being able to off-load and
centralize in one location, he can integrate all three of
his combat arms and truly train as a MAGTF vice having each
of his elements, the GCE, ACE or MSSG off in their own
little world doing their own thing.  A MAGTF needs to train
together if they are going to fight together.
     If the leases to our bases in the Philippines are not
renewed then other alternatives must be looked at for the
U.S.  Other countries in the Pacific Basin must be willing
to host U.S. forces if they want us to continue to have a
presence in the area.  The U.S. may have to ask the Japanese
to take a few more aircraft at Misawa, Iwakuni and a few
more bases.  On the naval side, more ships may utilize the
facilities at Sasebo and Atsugi.  On Okinawa, with the lack
of U.S. bases ability to expand and absorb the forces from
the Philippines, Okinawa doesn't hold any potential for the
     Singapore, a member of the Association of Southeast
Asia Nations (ASEAN), has constantly supported the retention
of U.S. bases in the Philippines.  Starting in August 89 it
had begun holding talks with the U.S. concerning the
transfer of some U.S. units to Singapore.  Singapore could
provide shipyard facilities to service the Seventh Fleet
naval ships.  Singaporean officials said that basing some
U.S. forces in Singapore would make it easier for the
Philippines to bear the burden of the U.S. bases.  For the
U.S., basing some naval forces in Singapore could result in
Washington's getting caught up in ASEAN rivalries of those
countries opposed to the stationing of U.S. forces there.
     On the air side, Brunei Darussalam may be persuaded to
accommodate a tactical fighter wing and a tactical airlift
wing formerly based at Clark.  Although Thailand has
indicated that it will not provide bases to the U.S., there
is still a possibility that former U.S. air bases at Udorn
and U Tapao, as well as the Sattahip deep water port, could
be kept in a state of readiness at all times with the U.S.
financial assistance. (3:60)
     Australia is considered a possible alternate, but
geographically it doesn't present itself as a feasible
alternative.  Another attractive alternative is Guam.  The
U.S. will have to strengthen the infrastructure it has
started there in the middle of this unstable but vital area.
     For the U.S. to remain a Pacific influence through the
projection of its air and naval power and to be able to
respond to a low-intensity conflict, our military basing,
access and transit rights in the Philippines is the key to
U.S. power projection capabilities.  Shifting our shipyard
facilities to service the Seventh Fleet naval ships to
Singapore or Japan is feasible.  Gaining landing rights in
Brunei Darussalam or stationing more aircraft in Japan is a
possibility.  All of the alternate plans that have been
proposed can become reality if the situation in the
Philippines is not worked out.  But when you look at the
overall picture, our bases in the Philippines gives the U.S.
the capacity and the best ability to project itself in the
     For the MEU Commander who will be responsible to carry
out this political objective, he needs the facilities so
that once the MAGTF departs CONUS he has the ability to
maintain its warfighting skills.  As attractive or feasible
as the alternate plans may seem, none of them offer the U.S.
a centralized location where the ARG is able to dock and
have all its needs taken care of.  From ship repairs to
logistic support for the Navy, to supply and aircraft
repairs for the MEU.  Not to be overlooked and the most
crucial item is the opportunity for the MEU to train,
maintain and sharpen its warrior's spirit.
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2.   Esteban, Enrique, "The Philippine Economy Toward the
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3.   Guran, Elizabeth, "Challenge in the Pacific:U.S. Basing
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4.   Loeb, Vernon, "Cheney Visits Manila," Philadelphia
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5.   McKearney, T.J., "Philippine Bases:Going, Going,
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6.   Reagan, Ronald, National Security Strategy of the
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