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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 10:42 a.m., Friday, February 3, 2006

Defense plan calls for beefing up Pacific forces

By Dennis Camire
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — A defense plan for the next two decades, released today, calls for beefing up naval forces in the Pacific Ocean, but stops short of calling for an additional aircraft carrier to be based in the area.

The plan, a sweeping report done every four years, outlines how the military should be structured.

"In the big picture, the review clearly highlights Hawai'i's growing role in our nation's defense," said Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai'i. "The focus is on the growing war on terrorism worldwide and clearly that implicated the Asia-Pacific region and Hawai'i's role there."

The 128-page plan, called the Quadrennial Defense Review, states that the fleet will have "greater presence" in the Pacific because of the shift in trade and transport to that region and China's growing power.

"Accordingly, the Navy plans to adjust its force posture and basing to provide at least six operationally available and sustainable carriers and 60 percent of its submarines in the Pacific," the plan says.

The plan also says the Navy will build a larger fleet that includes 11 carrier strike groups but does not specify where they will be based.

"For me, the biggest question right now is what does that mean," Case said. "It doesn't reflect an expansion in the number of carrier task forces and it doesn't specify where those carrier task forces ought to be positioned."

The Navy currently has 12 carriers. Five have home ports on the West Coast, one is based in Japan and six are stationed on the East Coast.

Gannett News Service writer John Yaukey contributed to this report. Reach Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.