WASHINGTON — The US Navy is aiming to have a forward presence of 120 ships by 2020, up from 97 ships today, putting ships "where it matters, when it matters." That's according to the latest update of the US maritime strategy, a document that guides the concepts and development of the sea services — the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (CS21) emphasizes cooperation between nations as a key element of maintaining worldwide security.

"No one nation can do this alone. Every country can make a contribution no matter how small they are," Rear Adm. Bill McQuilkin, director of Navy strategy and policy, told reporters at the Pentagon March 11. A current example, he said, was the deployment of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, now joined with the US carrier Carl Vinson in the Arabian Gulf to carry out combat airstrikes against the Islamic State group.

The document, last updated in 2007, places special emphasis on the rebalance to the Pacific, reconfirming some earlier concepts while adding new ones. CS21 restates the Navy's commitment to maintaining a forward-deployed carrier strike group in Japan, placing four littoral combat ships (LCS) in Singapore and operating its most advanced warfighting platforms in the region, including the new Zumwalt-class destroyer, F-35C joint strike fighters and the MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft.

"We are embracing innovation and efficiency," McQuilkin said, "building a modern and capable force."

The strategy calls for the Marine Corps to maintain a Marine expeditionary force (MEF) in the western Pacific and deploy a Marine rotational force to Australia.

"CS21 builds on our Expeditionary Force 21 document that came out a year ago," said Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, director of the futures directorate and commander of the Marine Warfighting Laboratory.

"Enhanced naval integration, compositing naval forces at sea, the use of nontraditional amphibious ships globally for the maritime force," he said. "There are points of emphasis that go from emphasizing warfighting to being where it matters when it matters." he pointed out.

The Coast Guard, said Rear Adm. Pete Brown, the assistant commandant for response policy, "is putting a lot of emphasis on fielding interoperable, complementary and non-redundant forces."

The service, he noted, "looks primarily at threats in the western hemisphere but also backs up the Navy in the Pacific." New ships, aircraft and systems are allowing the service to "make our platforms more interoperable with their Marine and Navy counterparts."

Asked if CS21 was an outgrowth of the Air-Sea Battle and All-Domain Access concepts, Killea cautioned reporters not "to go to any great lengths to connect" the concepts.

"The document talks about how we have to have a joint force, a coalition force and rely on our allies," Killea added. "We don't look for deficiencies [in our partners], we look for what they bring to the table."

"The reliance on our partners, you can't overstate that," chimed in McQuilkin.

A core value of the strategy is to bring regional stability to the western Pacific. "The strategy does a good job talking about the challenges and opportunities with China," McQuilkin said. "Global maritime prosperity — we all want to make sure that continues."

The entire strategy is available online at http://www.navy.mil/local/maritime/

E-mail: ccavas@defensenews.com

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