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Marines backup for Indian Ocean

The Carter administration plans to deploy a floating Indian Ocean base of seven ships with enough equipment to support a 10,000-man US Marine brigade, Monitor correspondent John K. Cooley reports. Deputy Defense Secretary W. Graham Claytor told the House sea power subcommittee that the force would be stationed by June afloat an Indian Ocean anchorage, probably the US-British base of Diego Garcia, about 2,700 miles from the Persian Gulf. The Marines could be airlifted to it in an emergency.

The floating-base concept is viewed by defense analysts here as the administration's response to critics who have charged that President Carter cannot follow through on his January commitment to defend Gulf oil and sea supply lanes with US forces, if necessary.

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Mr. Clayfor said the force would consist of ro-ro (roll-on, roll-off) ships, capable of quick loading and unloading, chartered from civilian owners, and one or two additional ro-ro ships owned by the Navy, along with two bulk ships and two tankers. Some of the $85 million needed would have to come from supplemental budget appropriations.

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