RIMPAC- Foreign Policy Tool or Snoozer?

Every two years, the U.S. Navy hosts what it claims to be the largest multinational maritime exercise in the world. This years’ RIMPAC 2010 is a 32-ship and 14-nation soiree in the warm Hawaiian waters.

Themed, “Combined Agility, Synergy and Support,” RIMPAC includes ships and units from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

A reported 20,000 participants will play in gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises, as well as maritime interdiction and vessel boardings (Arrrggghhh, mateys!) and more. There’s an amphibious exercise, the hottest ticket at these games (courtesy of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab-PAC), but more on that in another post.

Despite the size, locale and agenda, these games seem anything but exciting. Take away the French, and really, what’s left?

SNOOZEPAC is 38 days of too many visitors gorging themselves on foreign and U.S. naval delicacies. Air assets become personal taxis transporting their fares from vessel to vessel. (Maybe that’s how it got its rep as the world’s largest floating cocktail party.)

A Third Fleet official says the training provides opportunities these nations might not otherwise have. (Whose fault is that?) The gunnery range opportunities alone for the U.S. ships is said to be worth the price of admission. The helo-taxis would be flying anyway, so why not operate with other nations? Few get to land on Pacific Rim vessels. (Few may want to.)

In the end, RIMPAC may be more foreign policy tool than military mixer. It comes at a good time. The U.S could use some goodwill with Japan on the heels of the Okinawa controversy and F-22 refusals. Relations have been tense with our allies who are dying in wars their nations barely support.

Sure this is not a show on par with what Washington, D.C., normally offers, but it brings in a reported $43 million to the local economy. It may be SNOOZER of an exercise, but the 14 nations seem to think the training (or liberty) is hot and the locals are pleased with an infusion of cool cash.

Rumor update: Gen. Jim Mattis has canceled his trip to RIMPAC. Could CENTCOM be more than a dream?

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