Time For Guam Missile Defense Build-Up Is Now
by C. Todd Lopez, DOD News
December 11, 2021
There's no time to spare when it comes to getting the tools in place to defend Guam ... a U.S. territory, home to 168,000 Americans, and a centerpiece of America's defensive abilities in the Pacific region.
August 8, 2021 - An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam shows several vessels moored in Apra Harbor, including vessels from the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group 21, August 9, 2021. The deployment is the U.K.'s first by a carrier strike group in the Indo-Pacific for almost 25 years and marks a historic achievement in the bilateral partnership between the U.S. and U.K. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Naomi Johnson)
"Guam represents the region's most critical node for not just command and control but also logistics and for our power projection," Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Sklenka, the deputy commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said during a conversation Monday with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. "It's key terrain and it enables the success of our operational framework and its strategic importance can't be overstated."
Right now, he said, the Defense Department has committed about $11 billion in funding for military construction projects on Guam over the next five years, and that will help ensure Guam remains a place from which the U.S. military can fight, if needed, in the Indo-Pacific region.
"Guam is a place where our combat power will aggregate and congregate and from which it will emanate," Sklenka said. "From there we send a powerful strategic message to our allies and our adversaries that the United States has invested in this region — we prioritize the Indo-Pacific."
One area that needs work, Sklenka said, is Guam's missile defense system.
An aircraft sits on a taxiway. A military service member standing in the grass nearby provides directions.
"Today's missile defense capabilities in Guam are, as we know, only sufficient to protect against yesterday's threats," he said. "To defend Guam against the [Chinese military's] evolving capabilities ... we require a land-based, persistent, 360-degree system. There's no getting around that. The Guam defense system has got to be an architecture that fuses the most capable integrated air missile defense programs of record today and those that are developing into the future."
A U.S. Marine Corps AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar, a part of Air Defense Company Alpha, Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS) 4, sits in a field at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 25, 2021. Marines with MACS-4 use the G/ATOR to provide real time airspace surveillance, command and control while coordinating air and missile defense actions in support of U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force aircraft during exercise Pacific Iron 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Harmon)
Funding such a system, Sklenka said, is a top priority for Indo-Pacom, and has been for a while now.
"It's been our top priority for the last three years going on four, and the past two successive commanders have gone on the record to state this," Sklenka said. "They've warned all that will listen that the threat to Guam will only increase over the next five years. Those aren't idle threats. Those are based off of events that we're seeing unfold around us right now."
While the Missile Defense Agency is a likely candidate to lead the development of a more modern missile defense system on Guam, Sklenka said it's not important if it's MDA or one of the services ... of more importance, he said, is that it gets done.
U.S. Army E3 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense soldiers and deployed Bomber Task Force U.S. Airmen, pose in front of a THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system during a U.S. Army led tour on North West Field at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 12, 2021. The THAAD mission is to protect the homeland, deployed military forces, friends, and allies from short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles. The BTF was deployed to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility to meet Pacific Air Forces training objectives. PACAF in coordination with other components, allies, and partners, provides USINDOPACOM with continuous unrivaled air, space, and cyberspace capabilities to ensure regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)
"Our point is, we need something," he said. "We don't care whether it's led by [the] Army, whether it's led by [the] Navy ... or whether it's led [by] MDA. What we're saying is we need the decisions to be made, the architecture to be agreed upon, and to move out. Because this is a problem that we don't have the luxury anymore of waiting and analyzing and assessing. We've done all that stuff. We've done all the studies, it's time to move out, to get this thing into action. And if the best way to do that is to have MDA lead it, then let's figure out a way to give them the opportunity to lead it."
U.S. Department of Defense
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