01 July 2015

“Rebalancing U.S. Forces” Reviewed by Dr. Clark Capshaw, Military Sealift Command, in Air & Space Power Journal

Clark Capshaw, Military Sealift Command; review of Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014); Air & Space Power Journal 29.4 (July-August 2015).

Rebalancing U.S. Forces is a collection of essays relating to the Obama administration’s “rebalancing” of forces to the Asia-Pacific region–or, as that action is frequently called, the “Asia-Pacific pivot.” The collection–assembled by editors Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson, faculty members at the US Naval War College–has a distinct naval flavor. That … however, does not detract from either the book’s relevance or contribution, which is substantial. Arranged geographically, the eight chapters address, in turn, (1) “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” (2) “Japanese Bases and Chinese Missiles,” (3) “South Korea: An Alliance in Transition,” (4) “The U.S. Strategic Relationship with Australia,” (5) “Singapore: Forward Operating Site,” (6) “Diego Garcia and American Security in the Indian Ocean,” (7) “U.S. Bases and Domestic Politics in Central Asia,” and (8) “The Role of Sea Basing.”

In the introduction, the editors point out the contrast between Americans’ view of U.S. military presence on foreign soil and that of non-Americans: “Americans have long taken for granted the global network of military bases and facilities of all kinds that the United States acquired following World War II and has largely if not completely retained ever since. . . . But what Americans ignore or take for granted is neither ignored nor taken for granted by . . . friends and allies of the United States. For the latter, an American military presence on their soil raises inevitable questions of national sovereignty, often leads to frictions of various kinds with the host populations and political complications for their governments, and, not least, threatens to embroil them in unwanted military conflicts. . . . Potential adversaries . . . are keenly aware of the presence of American troops and warships on their doorstep and highly sensitive to their activities . . . as well as to any alteration in their numbers or makeup” (p. 2).

These themes suffuse each of the essays, accompanied by a historical perspective on each geographic region. In the first chapter, Erickson and Justin Mikolay focus on Guam. They argue that this territory is an essential element of US national security in the Pacific region because “there are no new islands or new access points to be discovered in East Asia; the U.S. capability to use existing access points and bases must be increased. Building up the American presence on Guam is the single most important step that can be taken to effect this crucial transition” (p. 30). Toshi Yoshihara then addresses US bases in Japan and their potential vulnerability to Chinese missiles and/or coercive diplomacy backed by the threat of using these missiles. The author bases much of his research on publications of the People’s Liberation Army and the “abundant, but largely untapped, Chinese open-source literature on naval affairs” (p. 39). The book’s third chapter, by Terence Roehrig, traces the history of American military basing in South Korea, past efforts to restructure or draw down the US forces there, the cost of those bases, and their future, noting that “while U.S. bases are focused on deterrence and defense of South Korea, they also provide a base for power projection in the region should that become necessary” (p. 72).

In chapter 4, Jack McCaffrie and Chris Rahman chronicle the long history of US engagement with Australia, beginning with the arrival of the first American troops in 1942. Of recent arrangements, the authors write that “American use of Australian territory . . . has been built on three elements: the ongoing salience of . . . joint facilities, expanded training and combined exercising, and access to Australian bases and facilities as points for transit, logistic support, and repair for U.S. ships or aircraft” (pp. 100-101). Despite the shared interest noted in this passage, the presence of American bases in Australia has become the subject of controversy, mostly due to the clandestine nature of the missions of some of those bases, which has even been kept secret from some of the highest government officials in Australia.

Of Singapore, Rahman writes in chapter 5 that although “the United States does not operate its own military bases in Singapore . . . the island . . . has become increasingly important to U.S. Pacific Command, particularly the U.S. Navy, since the end of the Cold War as the foremost Southeast Asian location for in-region support facilities” (p. 118). Diego Garcia is doubtlessly the most important US military facility in the Indian Ocean region. Indeed, Walter Ladwig III, Erickson, and Justin D. Mikolay, the authors of the sixth chapter, argue that it is “one of the most strategic American bases in the world” (p. 136). This essay, the longest in the book and the most detailed, includes 15 pages of copious endnotes.

In chapter 7, Alexander Cooley writes about US bases in Central Asia–namely, those in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. These bases came about as a consequence of the war in Afghanistan and have been embroiled in both internal and international political controversy, primarily with Russia.

The last essay, by Sam Tangredi, addresses sea basing by observing that there is no consensus about the definition of that term. Rather, “in its broad vision, ‘sea basing’ refers to the capability to use the sea in the same way that U.S. forces use overseas regional bases for deterrence, alliance support, cooperative security, power projection, and other forward operations” (p. 200). Tangredi concludes with four recommendations for the Department of Defense to consider regarding this capability.

Each of the essays in Rebalancing U.S. Forces is a valuable contribution to the analysis of the United States’ global strategy and the role that its bases play in the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. The questions they raise should be the subject of discussion and debate at the highest levels of the Department of Defense.

Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific

Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014).

  • Kindle edition now available!
  • China Ocean Press (www.oceanpress.com.cn) has purchased the simplified Chinese language rights and will soon publish an authorized Chinese-language edition.

Coauthor of:

Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, “Introduction,” in Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 1-13.

Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 14-35.

Walter C. Ladwig III, Andrew S. Erickson, and Justin D. Mikolay, “Diego Garcia and American Security in the Indian Ocean,” in Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 130-79.

Rebalancing US Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific. Edited by Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson. Annapolis, May 2014: US Naval Institute Press. 240pp, hardcover; seven maps. ISBN: 978-1-61251-465-9. $47.95.  


As the U.S. military presence in the Middle East winds down, the Asia-Pacific is receiving increased attention from the American national security community. The Obama administration has announced a “rebalancing” of the U.S. military posture in the region, in reaction primarily to the startling improvement in Chinese air and naval capabilities over the last decade or so. This timely study sets out to assess the implications of this shift for the long-established U.S. military presence in Asia and the Pacific. This presence is anchored in a complex basing infrastructure that scholars–and Americans generally–too often take for granted. In remedying this state of affairs, this volume offers a detailed survey and analysis of this infrastructure, its history, the political complications it has frequently given rise to, and its recent and likely future evolution. 

American seapower requires a robust constellation of bases to support global power projection. Given the rise of China and the emergence of the Asia-Pacific as the center of global economic growth and strategic contention, nowhere is American basing access more important than in this region. Yet manifold political and military challenges, stemming not least of which from rapidly-improving Chinese long-range precision strike capabilities, complicate the future of American access and security here. This book addresses what will be needed to maintain the fundamentals of U.S. seapower and force projection in the Asia-Pacific, and where the key trend lines are headed in that regard. 

This book demonstrates that U.S. Asia-Pacific basing and access is increasingly vital, yet increasingly vulnerable. This important strategic component demands far more attention than the limited coverage it has received to date, and it cannot be taken for granted. More must be done to preserve capabilities and access upon which American and allied security and prosperity depend.



  • “Introduction,” Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson
  • “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” Andrew S. Erickson and Justin Mikolay
  • “Japanese Bases and Chinese Missiles,” Toshi Yoshihara
  • “South Korea: An Alliance in Transition,” Terence Roehrig
  • “The U.S. Strategic Relationship with Australia,” Jack McCaffrie and Chris Rahman
  • “Singapore: Forward Operating Site,” Chris Rahman
  • “Diego Garcia and American Security in the Indian Ocean,” Walter C. Ladwig III, Andrew S. Erickson, and Justin D. Mikolay
  • “U.S. Bases and Domestic Politics in Central Asia,” Alexander Cooley
  • “The Role of Sea Basing,” Sam J. Tangredi


Carnes Lord, currently Professor of Strategic Leadership at the Naval War College and director of the Naval War College Press, is a political scientist with broad interests in international and strategic studies, national security organization and management, and political philosophy. He has taught at the University of Virginia and the Fletcher School, and served in a variety of senior positions in the U.S. government. (For further details, see http://www.usnwc.edu/Academics/Faculty/Carnes-Lord.aspx).

Andrew S. Erickson is an Associate Professor at the Naval War College and an Associate in Research at Harvard’s Fairbank Center. In spring 2013, he deployed as a Regional Security Education Program scholar aboard the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. Erickson runs the research websites www.andrewerickson.com and www.chinasignpost.com.


“Maritime power depends on many things, Mahan taught, not least of which is an array of well-positioned, amply supplied, and strongly defended bases. The United States can no longer take for granted its ability to operate unhindered in the Asia-Pacific, which makes this volume of thoughtful essays all the more timely and important. If the shift in American power and interest to Asia is to mean anything, decision-makers will have to heed the arguments advanced here.”

Dr. Eliot A. CohenRobert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS; former Counselor of the Department of State; author of Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime.

“World order in the 21st century will depend more and more upon the terms of the political and strategic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In this very timely book, Lord and Erickson and their authors examine expertly the likelihood of achievement of an effective U.S. pivot to Asia. This is, and needs to be, largely a maritime shift in U.S. posture. A seismic correction in U.S. geostrategy is happening.”

Dr. Colin S. GrayProfessor and Director, Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Reading

“The announced U.S. ‘pivot to Asia’ raised expectations and uncertainties among allies and adversaries throughout Asia and beyond.  In Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson have produced a well-considered, written and researched primer on the political-military considerations and drivers that will shape the future U.S. military posture throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  Informed by the relevant historical background and host-country access issues in several key locations hosting or servicing U.S. forces, this book is a timely and invaluable resource that policymakers and analysts involved in Asian security affairs will want to keep close at hand.”

Ambassador Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., former PDASD/ISA and Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs

Rebalancing U.S. Forces provides a detailed introduction to the complex, often contentious questions surrounding the deployment of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific. As the United States pursues an increasingly differentiated basing strategy across the region, a deeper understanding of the history of this issue is much needed, and this volume helps point the way.”

Dr. Jonathan D. Pollack, Senior Fellow, China and East Asian Strategy, The Brookings Institution

“In Rebalancing U.S. Forces, Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson have drawn together the powerful writing of the very best thinkers concerning the Pacific, US forces in the region, and the atmospheric debates about the levels, location, and employment of military force in this most nautical part of the globe. This is a book that must be on the shelf of any 21st century geopolitical analyst.”

Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), Ph.D.Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, 2009-13


“In view of strict fiscal constraints, the closure of many U.S. bases overseas, America’s focus on growing threats in the Asia-Pacific area, and concerns over uncertain regional allies and neutrals, 12 strategy and national security experts offer incisive analyses of ‘the strategic realities of our era’ regarding the repositioning of U.S. forces in the Pacific and Indian Ocean littorals and in Central Asia. The essays discuss specific geographic, political, and economic considerations and challenges; future potential use for deterrence, ally support, power projection, and sea control; and military and political strengths and vulnerabilities.”

—William D. Bushnell, Military Officer (May 2015): 23.

“Very good.”

Victor Pavlyatenko, 5-Star Review, Amazon.com, 11 February 2015.

“‘Rebalancing U.S. Forces’ gives an in-depth look at how the U.S. and Allied forces are attempting to manage a growing and modernizing China through overseas basing and the development of new weapons systems. It also gives fresh insight into how the U.S. needs to manage its relations with East and Southeast Asian nations to maintain the status quo regionally.”

Jesse Semenza, “Very Good Book, Yet a Very Easy Read,” 4-Star Review, Amazon.com, 26 January 2015.

“Its meat and potatoes is the strategic pivot being carried out by the USA, which will see 60 percent of the US Navy’s operational effort concentrated in Asia-Pacific. The book contains eight chapters about the forward deployment of US forces in an arc from Korea to the Indian Ocean, and it also deals with the role of Australia, and the impact of domestic politics of Central Asia. … The closing essay argues for sea basing, but concludes it is an unlikely option. In their introductory essay the editors suggest the advent of precision guided ballistic missiles in the Chinese arsenal make it likely America will be unable to rely on super-carriers as the primary platforms for projecting into Asia-Pacific. With that assertion, and others, they provide substantial food for thought.”

Peter Hore, Warships: International Fleet Review (December 2014).

“Our world continues to change very rapidly. The rise of China… led to much re-thinking among America’s defense intelligentsia. At the forefront of this, as usual, is the Naval War College which proves, yet again, that ‘military intellectual’ is not an oxymoron. If this book is any indication, the War College and its connections are still strong and useful thinkers. … This first rate collection of essays looks beyond Iraq and Afghanistan and takes a clear-eyed look at where America’s military future lies. Refreshingly thoughtful and sensible.”

Work Boat World (October 2014): 45.

“…an excellent and timely discussion of the countries and locations presently hosting U.S. bases in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. …informative on current U.S. presence in the region…. The maps at the beginning of the chapters provide an overview of that chapter’s particular location, giving the reader some reference point. …well-written discussion of current U.S. overseas basing… wealth of footnotes supporting the research. …a very informative anthology providing context of where the United States bases forces currently. The authors make a good case for continued and expanded basing in the region to support our friends, partners, and allies. They leave the reader to ponder tradeoffs that make this region logistically difficult. This is a book for planners, analysts, and State Department or congressional staffers concerned with the region. They should spend time reading Rebalancing U.S. Forces prior to making decisions about our future in the region.”

Col. Steve Hagel, USAF (Ret.), Defense Analyst, Air Force Research Institute, Strategic Studies Quarterly (November 2014).

“This is an excellent book and necessary reading for anyone interested (professionally or otherwise) in security in the Asia-Pacific and or the evolving US global force posture. Individual chapters… would be recommended reading for those concerned with the respective regions. The text is written to academic standards and each chapter includes detailed endnotes: a most valuable resource for further research, in particular with regard to the Chinese sources cited. The standard of presentation and quality of editing is high. The intended audience for this book would principally be those in the academic, think tank and policy analysis communities, and… is essential reading: however, the text is also accessible to those reading for pleasure. All in all, this is an engaging book and one that is highly recommended.”

James BosbotinisThe Naval Review (November 2014).

“This excellently edited volume of essays, most contributed by Naval War College faculty, is devoted to the ongoing rebalancing of U.S. forces (the Obama administration’s much-heralded ‘pivot’) and their concomitant basing structure from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. … One derives a certain sense of déjà vu—that “heartland” and “rimland” have returned with a vengeance, evoking the memories of Halford Mackinder and Alfred T. Mahan, respectively. … This work involves a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the past, present, and projected future of U.S. basing and forward presence, running roughly east to west, from Guam to the former-Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan). The analyses are dense and detailed. As with all … chapters, a good map displays the base locations.”

Robert E. Harkavy, “Basing and the Pivot,” Review Essay, Naval War College Review 67.4 (Autumn 2014): 147-50.

“For those readers who have an interest in reading the plans of the U.S. Navy in addressing… operations in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as a case for efforts towards sea basing, this is a book that contains a detailed and nuanced analysis. Readers… will find a wealth of information about American capabilities in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins….. At a slim 216 pages of written material (followed by an index), this book includes eight essays on a bevy of concerns for the Navy in the Asia-Pacific region, written by a variety of contributors from both academia as well as high-ranking officers from the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. … As a thoughtful and persuasive work, it deserves attention by military as well as civilian audiences.”

Nathan Albright, Naval Historical Foundation, 5 September 2014.

“With this well-crafted edited volume, Lord and Erickson have put together an excellent team to provide us with a valuable and much needed discussion of the current U.S. basing arrangements in the Asia-Pacific. …a truly excellent book… the quality and strength of each individual chapter is a reflection of the depth of knowledge of the authors assembled for the task. Its level of detail (including seven excellent maps) will also make it a useful reference text… in the end it’s a testimony to the book’s quality that its biggest problem is that you are left wanting more.”

Patrick Cullen, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 140 (September 2014): 74.

“The Naval Institute Press has published [an] excellent new [book] on the Pacific region’s past, present, and future …Lord and Erickson, faculty members at the Naval War College, present a very insightful and wide-ranging set of essays by some of the best minds on the Pacific.Given the rise of China and the emergence of theAsia-Pacific region as the center of global economic growth and strategic contention, nowhere is American presence and basing more important. That said, the manifold political and military challenges, to include rapidly improving Chinese long-range precision-strike capabilities, complicate the future of American access.”

—VADM Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.), “CEO Notes,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 140.6 (June 2014): 6.

“this is an extremely informative and interesting edited volume. … Most of the chapters are organized about particular territories: Guam, Japan, S. Korea, Australia, Diego Garcia, Singapore and Central Asia. (There is also a chapter about sea basing.) While some contributions emphasize the history of the relationship with the US, e.g., the Australia and S. Korea chapters, others are intensely focused on strategic considerations. For me, these were the standouts, particularly the chapters about Guam, Diego Garcia and Japan. … a strong recommend for anyone interested in a better understanding of the geopolitical situation in East Asia and the Indian Ocean.”

A. J. Sutter, “Not-to-Miss Background for Understanding East Asian Geopolitics,” 5-Star Rating, Amazon.com, 1 June 2014.

“Lord and Erickson’s essay collection will be a must-read for the entire Asian security establishment. … fascinating details, for example about nuclear submarine reactor cores, warship steaming ranges and speeds, Australia’s targeting role during during Desert Storm, the tempo of US personnel and materiel transiting Singapore every year (150 US ships, 400 aircraft and 30,000 personnel) and even the plumbing of Diego Garcia (not trivial given its average elevation of 4 feet above sea level). … There is even a chapter at the end on ‘sea basing’, an operational concept using floating mobile platforms for storage, repair and deployment. … Nothing, as Lord and Erickson imply, shouts commitment louder than bases.”

Julian Snelder, “Bases, Places and Boots on the Ground: A Review of ‘Rebalancing US Forces’,” The Lowy Interpreter, 14 May 2014.

“the arrival… could hardly be more timely. … More than merely a history of America’s basing archipelago in the Asia-Pacific theater, Rebalancing U.S. Forces is a critical examination of the assumptions underlying U.S. basing, and therefore U.S. strategy, for the region. … Editors Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson, both professors at the U.S. Naval War College, are uniquely suited for this project. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Carnes Lord has long service inside the White House and the National Security Council staff. Andrew Erickson’s intimate knowledge of China and its military forces and doctrine has made him a veritable one-man national asset. Lord and Erickson, in turn, have recruited an eminent roster of contributors to this anthology who provide a survey of the history, practicalities and future of the U.S. base structure in the Asia-Pacific region. … Unlike many anthologies, the contributions to Rebalancing U.S. Forces are uniformly excellent. Each chapter essay is thoroughly researched and sourced, and is written by experts well familiar with the history, dilemmas, and future challenges of each location. Seven first-rate maps of U.S. facilities spanning the region further enhance the book. … Policy makers … should read Rebalancing U.S. Forces to obtain a deeper understanding of the challenges America and its partners face.”

Robert Haddick, “America’s Military Bases in the Asia-Pacific: Strategic Asset or Vulnerability?” The National Interest, 18 May 2014.

“…leading US naval thinkers Carnes Lord, professor of strategic leadership at the US Naval War College, and Andrew S. Erickson, an associate professor at the college, were clearly key thinkers in bringing together the new US Naval Institute book, Rebalancing US Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific…. The book is a collected work of the faculty of the US Naval War College and its external contributors, but it draws very much on the College’s roots and association with the great maritime strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who so clearly saw, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the need for US basing options in the Pacific. … What is significant about this study is the fact that, for the first time in decades, the US has been thinking from a clean-sheet perspective about its basing needs. … The US ‘re-balancing’ toward Asia and the Pacific has begun to raise major planning issues for the US, and that is what this important new book addresses. … in an outstandingly well researched chapter entitled ‘Diego Garcia and American Security in the Indian Ocean’ … Walter C. Ladwig III, Andrew S. Erickson, and Justin D. Mikolay … chronicle India’s and the PRC’s interests and concerns in the Indian Ocean. Chapters such as this, in the book, make it a vital resource. …”

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis 32.18 (25 February 2014): 1-2.


For a two-article summary of the volume, see:

Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, “Bases for America’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance (Part 1 of 2),” The Diplomat, 2 May 2014.

As of 2013, according to Defense Department figures, the United States had some 695 overseas bases or facilities of these types, of which 97 are in overseas U.S. territories and the rest in 40 foreign countries. The majority of these, however, are in only three countries: Germany (179), Japan (109), and the Republic of Korea (83). This is in comparison to 4,364 U.S.-based facilities, for a grand total of 5,059. …

Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, “Bases for America’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance (Part 2 of 2),” The Diplomat, 6 May 2014.

Moving toward Asia from the West Coast, one immediately encounters the reality of America’s status as an Asia-Pacific power: it possesses a sweeping array of sovereign territory in which to base Pacific-focused forces. Hawaii and Alaska first come into view. Although they are integral parts of the United States, their geographical proximity to Asia gives them unique importance in any discussion of military bases on American soil. Already home to a significant military presence, both are likely candidates for an enhanced military presence in the coming years as part of the Obama administration’s strategic reorientation toward Asia: Hawaii, thanks to its central location, and Alaska thanks to its nearly unparalleled strategic depth. 

Next is Guam, which likewise offers the United States a strategically central sovereign basing location. It has great potential as a well-placed and politically reliable location wherein investment supports local Americans. These factors have already made it a recipient of some of forces currently being moved from America’s East Asian allies, a potential fallback as the process continues in the future. For all these reasons, Guam’s capabilities and infrastructure have been built up significantly over the past decade. Improvements continue to this day. To some extent, this is returning Guam to its historical status as a strategic support and communications hub in the Western Pacific. …