Focusing on the core mission – or losing a valuable capability?

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.

. . .

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”.

. . .

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.

Here’s an image of one of the 35 Runnymede-class LCU’s currently in US Army service.  Malvern Hill was photographed in Alaskan waters.

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.



  1. The Obama years are paying off in spades now for our enemies. The junior and midgrade officers who prospered under Obama are now midgrade and senior. They control the service, and they've never seen what "right" looks like.

    The bean counters and lawyers are in charge.

  2. It is so sad to see the loss of LRS units. I was in the V Corps battalion that included an LRS company. They were good, dedicated specialist infantrymen. We got along as professionals, especially after the entire battalion deployed to Kosovo, and we got to finally see each other in action.

  3. The Army is constantly changing and trying to eliminate capabilities that are not needed. The functional area of Force Structure FA-50, is a constant poker game of trading cards such as units, entire branches and even individual duty positions by rank. There are limits and so things get eliminated due to the potential threats. Just look at Army rail units, the consolidation of three entire branches into the Logistics Branch, attack aviation being only in the active component. At one time Field Artillery was the Queen of Battle. Now it's use is non PC and so you have massive cuts and movement of people to information ops? Change and loss of a capability that is not deemed tip of the spear will always occur.

  4. 1) Wasting umpty-zillions on the F-35 damaged Pentagon budgets.

    2) Never forget that Obama was trained by the Communists; whatever he did in office was oriented toward diminishing or eliminating US military preparedness.

    3) No man with common sense has occupied the SecDef slot since perhaps the Ike Administration. Thus, no one–not even the largest CPA firm in the world–can tell how much money is where in that labrynth. Of course, the Pentagon made certain that the CPA's would fail by setting an upper limit on payment for the contract.

    4) The US Navy has been showing signs of complete, through-and-through, dry-rot for about 6 years (maybe more.) It's clearly not run by real men or real warriors.

    5) Bend over and prepare to kiss your ass goodbye!!

  5. This is an example, once again, of preparing to fight the last war, not the next one.

    The last war(s)? Desert and scrub-land warfare in non-coastal regions. While the next one does look to be, once again, somewhere mighty wet.

    Our betters never learn from their mistakes, do they?

  6. Speaking from long experience, they screwed up big time.

    They had 315 foot long ships commanded by Warrant Officers and who knows who their squadron CO was or the General they reported to. They truly screwed up. If you don't move yourself very hard in a specialty that other's could provide to get on some CINC's Integrated Priority List and stay there year after year, you're toast.

    At best they were a limousine service for an Uber world. At worst they emodied every single horrible aspect of dealing with Big Army and charged any customer that wanted their services through the nose just like their USAF counterparts who never thought a dime squeeled until they wanted it at which point they all shuffled off going, "I don't hear anything."

    You haven't lived until you've heard some officious Big Army Sgt or LtCol demand to know your MIPR or your funding site before actually doing the damned job they were tasked to do by JCS. It got old, really old.

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