Logistics: October 7, 2004

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The United States is changing the way it supports troops overseas. Logistical, and other support is, after a fashion, being outsourced. Over the next decade, 35 percent of Americas overseas bases will be closed, but additional arrangements will be made to have emergency access to foreign military and commercial airbases and ports. These new virtual bases are being called lily pads and are going to be set up in new areas (Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe) to support likely operations in the war on terror. The lily pads vary quite a lot. Some are warehouses of American military equipment, including weapons, guarded and maintained by contract civilians (often locals) and supervised by a small number of American troops. But in most cases, its simply a matter of arranging in advance for access. This can be done via treaty, or simply a commercial contract. Many countries prefer some kind of treaty, which obliges the United States to help the host country out in the event of some military or diplomatic emergency. 

Moreover, many nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, or have a communist government, still have huge, although poorly maintained, military facilities that the United States could use. These deals often involve American help in refurbishing these bases, many of them having been infrequently used, or maintained, since the early 1990s.  For example, Rumania has offered use of the the Kogalniceanu Air Base, the Babadag training range and a specialized military port, Mangalia, on the Black Sea. Bulgaria has two military air fields. 

Sao Tome and Principe, off the coast of West Africa, have offered to provide air access to all of West Africa. Moreover, Sao Tome is looking for a big brother to help it with the bullying attitude displayed by big neighbor Nigeria. Sao Tome is looking at the success of such deals in the Persian Gulf, where many of the smaller countries there are happy to allow American troops to use their bases, and keep potentially nasty neighbors away. Other nations that have expressed interest in these kinds of arrangements are Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The post Cold War basing strategy will keep more American troops in the United States most of the time, but fly them out to these many foreign bases on training exercises, and in emergencies.

 


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