I’m puzzled by a report that the US Army is closing down many of its watercraft systems and units.
U.S. Army Maritime capabilities will be radically reduced this year as the service deactivates and divests itself of numerous vessels, watercraft equipment, watercraft systems, Soldiers, and Units. At least eighteen (18) of its 35 Landing Craft Utility (LCU) will be sold off or transferred to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO). Landing Craft Utility (LCU), a versatile 174- foot landing craft capable of carrying 500 tons of cargo, personnel and containers, is the workhorse of the Army Watercraft field.
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Eight Army Reserve Watercraft Units and their civilian maintenance facilities are listed for closing. These Units represent hundreds of AGR (Active Reserve), TPU (Reserve), and Civilians. These units presently support, train, and deploy Army Watercraft Soldiers throughout the world, and maintain dozens of watercraft, from 70 ft. Small Tugs to 315 foot LSVs and Barge Derrick Cranes.
As stated in the Army’s Memo initiating this decision, “Army Watercraft Transformation Through Divestment of Capability and Force Structure by Inactivation of Units”, the intent is to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure”.
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Army officials are also removing Watercraft positions within the assignment system, to ensure Soldiers in the future cannot be assigned to maritime duties, indicating there is no plan by the Army to reconsider their actions, or bring back a watercraft capability should the world situation change.
There’s more at the link.
I must admit, I’m puzzled by this decision. I can understand the Army wanting to save money by getting rid of non-essential equipment, units and elements. However, in most of the wars I’ve studied, water operations – crossing rivers and lakes, ferrying supplies along coastlines, rescuing survivors during emergencies and transporting relief supplies, etc. – have necessitated specialized transport units to perform them. If that core capability is lost, or diminished to the point where it won’t be able to cope with the demand for its services, where will the US Army turn when it needs it again – as it surely will? I don’t see competitors and/or potential enemies divesting themselves of their capabilities in that field, so why is our Army doing so?
Furthermore, the cost of maintaining a waterborne transport capability – particularly when it’s operated largely by the Reserve – appears minuscule compared to that of many other units. Isn’t getting rid of it, or so drastically reducing it, a good example of being penny wise but pound foolish? I felt the same over the Army’s decision to deactivate its Long Range Surveillance capabilities a few years ago. Historically, they’ve been needed often enough to indicate that they’ll likely be needed again – but if they are, the Army will have to stand up that capability again from scratch, taking a lot of time and effort to do so when it may have neither to spare.
This decision is a puzzle. If anyone can shed light on it, please tell us more in a comment to this blog post.