Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will tour a Navy vessel off the Southern California coast to show the importance of big deck amphibious assault ships amid looming military cuts.
Panetta is expected to travel to the USS Peleliu after boarding a hovercraft Friday morning along the coast at the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton base, north of San Diego.
The Pentagon says the Defense Department is committed to ships like the Peleliu that came under debate when former Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioned whether amphibious skills are becoming outdated with today's enemy anti-ship technology.
The Pentagon says the ships give commanders flexibility by helping to move Marines and supplies ashore.
Marines have been trying to return to their amphibious roots after spending a decade fighting landlocked wars.