Navy's top admiral endorses strategic shift to the Pacific
The Navy's top admiral said yesterday that the majority of the Navy's 12 carriers will be based in the Pacific, reflecting the shifting security demands on the military and his plans to expand the fleet to 313 warships.
Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chief of naval operations, said at a Pentagon news conference that he endorsed the Pentagon's recently unveiled strategic analysis, which calls for six carriers and 60 percent of its submarine fleet to be stationed in the Pacific.
He did not comment on a nearly 3-year-old proposal to base a carrier at Pearl Harbor or Guam.
The Navy now has five nuclear carriers based on the West Coast and one non-nuclear vessel -- the USS Kitty Hawk -- berthed in Japan. The remaining six are on the East Coast. The USS Kitty Hawk in Yokosuka will be replaced by the USS George Washington in 2008.
"(The move) focuses on the important region of the world. We also on the maritime side suffer the tyranny of distance. The Pacific is a big ocean, so you need more capability there just to get from point A to point B."
Adm. Michael Mullen
Chief of Naval Operations
Shifting a major portion of the Navy's power to the Pacific "focuses on the important region of the world," he said. "We also on the maritime side suffer the tyranny of distance. The Pacific is a big ocean, so you need more capability there just to get from point A to point B."
Mullen said the Navy still wants to retire the USS Kennedy, now homeported in Florida.
"The proposal in the budget is to decommission her and I would like that to happen as soon as possible," Mullen told reporters.
Mullen's statement means the majority of the Navy's carriers in the Pacific will remain there.
He referred to the carrier USS Carl Vinson, which has left its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., for a three-year overhaul in Virginia. That carrier will return to the West Coast after it has been refitted, Mullen said.
He also said 60 percent of the Navy's nuclear submarine fleet will be shifted to the Pacific.
Currently, 35 attack and ballistic missile submarines are based in the Pacific and an equal number in the Atlantic. There are 16 Los Angeles-class submarines at Pearl Harbor and three in Guam.
He told reporters that he submitted to Congress today his proposals to increase the number of ships in the Navy to 313. There are now 281 vessels.
Mullen commanded the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Goldsborough from 1985 to 1986.