There are many misconceptions of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), so let me, as the commander, put some of it in proper perspective. First, basically we are a global force designed to cope with contingencies outside NATO and Korea. Due to events in the Middle East and the critical importance of the Persian Gulf, however, it is quite natural that this region captures much of our attention.
Unlike the Soviets, we do not have -- nor do we seek -- a permanent base structure near the Middle East. Navy and Marine forces can be forward deployed in time of crisis without a requirement for en route basing, overflight rights, or forward operating bases. But all other forces, together with their supplies and equipment, must now move by air or ship. And I need not remind you that the distance from the United States to the Persian Gulf is 7,000 air miles, or that it takes three to four weeks for a ship to move from the East Coast to the region.
The task is difficult but not impossible. The only alternative to the rapid deployment force is nothing -- and nothing is a "gilt-edged" invitation to the Soviet Union for further excursions like Afghanistan.
We have available to the RDJTF right now a balanced force which can, in a relative sense, deploy quite rapidly.
* We have carrier battle groups, two of which are deployed right now in the Indian Ocean.
* We have a Marine Amphibious Force -- together with the necessary amphibious shipping to move this 50,000-man integrated air-ground team -- which could commence movement when early warnings are received . . . and could be positioned off-shore independent of bases -- to act as a strong deterrent or to move ashore when and where needed.
* We have seven maritime prepositioning ships already on station in the Indian Ocean. These ships are loaded with the heavy equipment and supplies needed to support a 12,000-man Marine Amphibious Brigade during an initial period of operations.
* We have 70 C-5, 234 C-141, and 490 C-130 aircraft for both inter- and intra-theater movement of a multidivision force from the US Army. This includes a combination of airborne, air-assault, mechanized, armor, ranger, and special forces capabilities. These same aircraft will assist in the movement of an extensive US Air Force Tactical Air Force -- to include F-111s, A-7s, A-10s, F- 15s, F-4s, F-16s -- not to mention a conventional strategic projection force of B-52s from the Strategic Air Command.
To do the job better we need more, particularly amphibious shipping and strategic airlift and sealift.
The rapid deployment force is designed for flexibility. In other words, we organize around the building block principle, which means we could respond to minor as well as major contingencies.
Basically, however, we are preeminently a force to deter -- and, if deterrence fails, to repel overt Soviet military aggression. We are not a force designed to intrude on the sovereign rights of any nation! Quite to the contrary, we designed to insure that these same sovereign rights are maintained and protected.
Suppose the Soviets, or any other aggressor for that matter, seriously threatens the security of country "X," and United States assistance is requested. Obviously, our first reaction will be an attempt to solve the problem through diplomatic means.
Should diplomacy fail we are then faced with two options:
The first is to fall back and do nothing. In the Middle East and Persian Gulf that could be catastrophic to our future well-being.
The other is to deploy rapidly and upon invitation a credible force -- the RDJTF -- as a deterrent. For lack of a better phrase, I refer to this as "circumspect presence." This "circumspect presence" transmits a signal to the Soviet Union that any further movements on their part could result in direct confrontation with the United States. This, needless to say, has two by-products. First, it changes the whole calculus of the crisis for the Soviets , and, second, it demonstrates to our friends and allies that we are willing to use force if necessary. In short, the rapid deployment force puts sharp and lethal teeth in the United States' foreign policy for the Middle East and Persian Gulf.