Forward-deployed” American naval forces — those that have home ports outside the United States, such as the forces currently based in Japan and Spain — have provided great strategic value to the United States over the past century. Their positioning far from home waters conveys to potential enemies that we are always present and always “interested” in the geographic regions where those ships sail. It also allows for a smaller overall naval force and reduces the distances involved for logistical-support vessels that normally have to operate far from America’s shores. It’s clear that we are once again immersed in a great-power competition with Russia and China. We should consider whether there are other regions, such as the Baltic and Black Seas, where U.S. Navy forces should be permanently based to provide support to allies and protect U.S. national interests.
The United States Navy has made use of forward-deployed naval forces for more than a century. An Asiatic squadron operated from ports in China and the Philippines during the 19th and early 20th century. After World War II, the Sixth Fleet protected American national interests in the Mediterranean during some of the tensest moments of the long Cold War. The Vietnam War was fought by ships operating from the deep-water port at Subic Bay, in the Philippines. Today, Navy ships take up station from bases in Japan and Spain. These bases provided strategic, fiscal, and logistics advantage.
Read the full op-ed on the National Review.