Lloyd Austin
Lloyd AustinREUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday ordered an increase in forces in the Mediterranean region.

In a statement, Lloyd said, “Following detailed discussions with President Biden on recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East Region, today I directed a series of additional steps to further strengthen the Department of Defense posture in the region.”

“These steps will bolster regional deterrence efforts, increase force protection for US forces in the region, and assist in the defense of Israel,” he added.

“First, I redirected the movement of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Central Command area of responsibility,” said Austin. “This carrier strike group is in addition to the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which is currently operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. It will further increase our force posture and strengthen our capabilities and ability to respond to a range of contingencies.”

“I have also activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for US forces,” continued Austin.

The final step is the placing of an additional number of forces on prepare to deploy orders as part of prudent contingency planning, to increase their readiness and ability to quickly respond as required.

“I will continue to assess our force posture requirements in the region and consider deploying additional capabilities as necessary,” concluded Austin.

The deployment of the USS Dwight Eisenhower was originally announced last Saturday. The USS Gerald R Ford carrier strike group had arrived in the region several days before that.

On Thursday, a US official and a congressional aide told Reuters that the Pentagon intends to return the two Iron Dome missile defense systems it had previously purchased from Israel so it could defend itself against terrorist missiles.

According to the report, the Department of Defense told members of Congress at a briefing on Wednesday it planned to lease the Iron Dome systems back to Israel. In this type of financial arrangement, the ownership remains with the buyer.

The transfer back to Israel could come within days, the congressional aide told Reuters.