Negotiating Base Access During Crises

  • Lieutenant Colonel Douglas F. Tippet

Today the US faces a new era of uncertainty about where, when, and against whom it will militarily engage. Coupling that reality with A2AD and budget-induced re-posturing leaves America in a strategic predicament regarding force projection similar to the one it faced prior to WWII. Current trends suggest that the U.S. will continue to reduce overseas basing as a way to manage reduced end-strength and rising infrastructure sustainment costs. With fewer pre-positioned forces and a political desire to decrease large main operating base footprints, Combatant Commanders will need to gain quick access to airfields, seaports, and basing at the onset of crises. Complicating this strategic problem is the possibility that diplomatic leverage spent for negotiating use prior to hostilities may not result in actual use of bases during hostilities. To these ends, the historical evidence suggests a potential strategic benefit of using the “Lend-lease” concept to inform future policy formulation for contingency basing negotiations. These realities suggest that the U.S. must balance its goal of stabilizing regions through building partner capacity with the need to retain some type of leverage for future negotiations of airfields and ports during actual crisis.