By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Pacific Island Times
Reiterating Guam’s critical role in maintaining stability in the region, a military commander officially announced the Indo-Pacific Command’s plan to build an integrated 360-degree air defense capability on island.
“Guam is our strategic heart in the western Pacific,” said Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of Indo-Pacific Command. “It is our most critical operating location west of the Pacific and funding the air defense on Guam is my number one priority.”
With a price tag of $1.6 billion, Guam’s air defense program is the centerpiece of the Indo-Pacific Command’s proposed $27.3 billion defense strategy to deter China’s expansion attempts in the region. The budget request was submitted to the U.S Congress this week.
“A fixed defense system on Guam does not make Guam a target; it is already one and China is making no secret of this fact,” Davidson said in a forum hosted Thursday by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
He recalled China’s widely circulated propaganda video released last fall, depicting an attack on the mockup of Andersen Air Force Base.
“In all, the Guam defense system will allow us to regain our advantage, help us deter China and demonstrate our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the region that we are here to stay to defend what is ours,” Davidson said.
The much-ballyhooed Aegis Ashore system on Guam is targeted to be up and running by 2026.
“Guam is a critical nexus for commanding control, for logistics and sustainment and power projection of our strategic air and water force,” Davidson said.
Nicknamed “the tip of the U.S. military spear,” Guam, which has a population of about 170,000, has also been at the crosshairs of North Korea.
The island is also home to 22,000 service members, civilian employees, contractors, and dependents, besides the rotational forces. The military residents account for 13 percent of the island’s total population.
“Guam is U.S. home and indeed, where America’s day begins,” Davidson said, noting that the island’s defense is “homeland defense.”
Davidson said Guam’s defense system is also capable of conducting full-spectrum defense to detect potential aggression, as well as delivery of firepower to support military maneuvers.
The Department of Defense, he added, continues to expand warfighting capacity and infrastructure and increase the military’s footprint on Guam.
The Marine Corps Camp Blaz, which opened in November, will host the 5,000 Marines who will be relocated from Okinawa.
Davidson said Guam’s defense system, with its guided-missile destroyers, will carry out the mission and has the same capacity to protect the island.
“We need to free up those missile-guided destroyers that will have multi-mission capability to detect threats under the sea, on the sea, and above the sea,” Davidson said.
While the U.S. military’s mission is to maintain peace and avoid conflict in the region, Davidson underscored the need to be properly equipped in the event of any aggression, specifically from China which is seeking “a new world order” in which “world power is more important than international law.”
“Absent a convincing deterrent, China will be emboldened to take the action to supplant the rules based on international order and the values represented in our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Davidson said.