How the U.S. Moves its Forces Around the World Today
Quietly transforming its overseas base network, the U.S. has put several out-of-sight garrisons called in its own jargon 'lily pads' or small, flexible supply-and-forward jump points that can facilitate operations anywhere in that theater of military activity whether it be reconaissance or actual combat situations.
Protests against giant U.S. base installations overseas has led America to seemingly downsize its military footprint in other countries, relying instead on small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies. The Pentagon has supposedly built upwards of 50 lily pads and other small bases since around 2000, while exploring the construction of dozens more.
The United States now positions its forces in "secluded and self-contained outposts strategically located" around the world. In a world where alliances shift drastically in the dangerous Middle East, where Chins is seeking territorial advantage in the Asian seas, and where terrorist camps abound in Islamic countries with weak governments, U.S. economic interests as well as diplomatic interests, are of primary safety and securing these involve having a mobile and flexible military option. Keeping unmarked (except by the enemy who knows exactly where most of the forward bases are) stations to facilitate a faster response turnaround if and when the U.S. needs to send in its forces in any region.
Transforming the Base Empire
The U.S. was forced to close 505 bases that it built in Iraq, and is now drawing down forces in Afghanistan. In Europe, the Pentagon is continuing to close its massive bases in Germany and will soon remove two combat brigades from that country. U.S. troop numbers are to be reduced by up to 100,000.
Bush's original plan was to shift troop deloyment east and south, closer to predicted conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Pentagon began to focus on creating smaller and more flexible "forward operating bases" and even smaller "coopersecurity locations."
"We just can't be in one place to do what we've got to do," Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel Locklear III has said. For military planners, "what we've got to do" is clearly defined as isolating and "containing" the new power in the region, China. In Africa, the Pentagon has quietly created a dozen or so air bases for drones and surveillance since 2007.
In the nearby Persian Gulf, the Navy is developing an "afloat forward-staging base," or "mothership," to serve as a sea-borne "lily pad" for helicopters and patrol craft, and has been involved in a massive build-up of forces in the region. In 2008, the Navy reactivated its Fourth Fleet, inactive since 1950, to patrol the region.
The Pentagon has better flexibility with secret forward bases: expecting small-scale interventions in which carefully dispersed positions allow for access and intervention to any area of conflict to avoid the worst situations from going out of hand.