As part of its force posture strategy in the Asia-Pacific, the United States is eyeing the transfer of some of its logistics assets being drawn down in Afghanistan to the Philippines and other areas in the region, the US Department of Defense (DOD) said.
The planned pre-positioning of its logistics assets aims to support future disaster response or other contingency in the region as the US Pacific Command (US Pacom) implements President Barack Obama's guidance to make the Asia-Pacific a top priority.
It comes along with more rotation deployments of US forces in the region.
In a report by the American Forces Press Service posted on the DoD website, it was stated that, "As US forces draw down in Afghanistan, Pacom is working with the Defense Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to identify what materiel assets might be transferred to the Asia-Pacific."
Air Force Gen. Mark M. McLeod, Pacom director for logistics, was quoted as saying that part of what his office is doing "is looking at the options of where we can forward locate humanitarian assistance capabilities in the theater."
"We want to posture them somewhere in the theater that would allow us to react very quickly," he added.
Among the materials to be disassembled from the expeditionary camps in the US Central Command area of operation in Afghanistan include tents, blankets, and generators, which McLeod said could be vital in a humanitarian crisis.
The report noted that, "although no part of the world is immune to natural disasters, none experiences them in the number or severity as the Asia-Pacific region. Located on the earthquake-prone ring of fire, it also suffers from cyclones, tsunamis, flooding, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions," thus the plan to move some of the US military's logistics assets closer to where it could be of more use.
McLeod said that with equipment and supplies being moved out of the combat theater (Afghanistan), "logic dictates sending at least some of it where it's most likely to be needed."
"As opposed to bringing it home [and] putting it in central storage facilities, it might make more sense, when we do this calculus, to forward move [materiel] to a place where we could get access to very low-cost storage capabilities," he said.
The Pacom official noted several locations, such as Singapore and the Philippines, "which offer not only low-cost warehouse space, but also good airfield and port access."
"Even regional nations not comfortable with a visible US military presence on their soil tend to be open to accepting pre-positioned equipment and supplies, typically tucked away in shipping containers and storage facilities, to support a humanitarian response."
"It supports the local economy while providing a ready force of equipment and supplies for US troops to fall in on if called to support a disaster response. That, in turn, allows them to move in faster and hit the ground running because they don't have to transport it thousands of miles to where it's needed," said McLeod.
"So it is very much a win-win... We are looking for the opportunities to place those assets out there that will help us address that tyranny of distance," he further stated, although he also admitted that "budget constraints demand good decision-making and business practices."
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed the report, saying that the pre-positioning plan of the US Pacom to the Asia-Pacific is a welcome development, especially for countries like the Philippines that are perennially hit by natural disasters and calamities.
"The Logistics assets of the US Pacom will be of great help in complementing the efforts of the AFP in its humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations," said AFP spokesman, Col. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr.
"This will also allow for rapid responses and quick reactions to emergency situations brought forth by typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural calamities that frequent the Asia-Pacific region," he added.
The AFP spokesman went on to say, "As we have already established strong ties with the US Armed Forces and other foreign military partners, exemplified mainly through the numerous bilateral exercises, training, and other undertakings such as the Balikatan, CARAT and Pacific Partnership, the pre-positioning plan will augment and support our efforts to improve and enhance further our interoperability and effectiveness in conducting HADR (humanitarian and disaster response) operations."
On Friday last week, in the wake of the deadly floods that hit Metro Manila and Central and Southern Luzon, a senior US military official arrived in the country to offer their unique capabilities to help further enhance the AFP's disaster response capability.
General James F. Amos, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Commandant, met with Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin at Camp Aguinaldo where they discussed about further strengthening military cooperation between the United States and the Philippines.
During the meeting, both Gazmin and Amos expressed their mutual interest in forging stronger ties, especially in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR).
The AFP together with the US Armed Forces are also set to undertake the month-long Pacific Unity 12-6 (PU 12-6) in Pampanga and Tarlac from August 20 to September 20.
Pacific Unity is a Pacific Command (Pacom)-funded humanitarian assistance mission. It is a bilateral and joint engineering civic action program conducted in cooperation with the provincial government of Pampanga and Tarlac.