From Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence
The Pentagon is converting an aging warship into a floating base for use by U.S. commandos operating in the Middle East, according to a senior Defense Department official.
The USS Ponce, an amphibious transport docking ship, will be retrofitted into a staging base for Navy special operations forces.
The Washington Post first reported the story.
"The warship will be manned by a combined crew of Navy officers and enlisted sailors and Military Sealift Command government civilian mariners," said a statement from Lt. Commander Mike Kafka at U.S. Fleet Forces. The deployment will fulfill a longstanding request of the U.S. Central Command, the statement said.
One of the highlights in Pentagon budget documents released on Thursday was continued funding for "a new afloat forward staging base that can be dedicated to support missions in areas where ground based access is not available, such as counter-mine operations."
Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping lane for Persian Gulf oil. Mines would be one way for Iran to block the waterway.
–CNN Pentagon Producer Jennifer Rizzo contributed to this report.