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  • Writer's pictureBy Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Defense of Guam is 'the main thing,' according to security experts

Missile defense experts say the island needs 'heavy protection' with mature technologies

The defense of Guam must be the focus of the Biden administration’s programs designed to thwart China’s threats in the Indo-Pacific region, according to missile defense experts.

Guam needs “heavy protection” with “mature technologies” to confront China’s new hypersonic and updated cruise missiles, defense experts said during an online forum held Oct. 6 by the Heritage Foundation.

“Make the main thing the main thing,” said Thomas Karako, director of the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Why Guam? Well, it’s because, for various reasons, we have made Guam kind of the centerpiece of our power projection in the region,” Karako said.

Dubbed the "the tip of the spear," Guam provides major support for Navy submarines operating in the Pacific, hosts an airbase capable of sustaining Air Force strategic bombers, and a Coast Guard headquarters that operates several cutters. The Air Force also has been carrying out rotational deployments of bombers.

“There are going to be some things like an island you cannot hide,” Karako said. “Those things will require a robust defense. We can’t do our job effectively without protecting these forces and having adequate force protection.”

Earlier this year, Navy Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the Indo-Pacific Command told Congress he would push for a plan, proposed by his predecessor, to build the Aegis Ashore missile defense system on Guam.

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The request for Aegis installation on Guam is a component of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a five-year $27 billion proposal submitted by former INDOPACOM commander Adm. Phillip Davidson to the U.S. Congress earlier this year.

“Indo-Pacific commanders have been pounding the table saying this is their No. 1 priority,” Karako said.

He said an architectural study sought by the U.S. Congress for the Guam defense is underway.

Brad Roberts, director of the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said the U.S. military does not need Astrodome missile defense for the whole United States because an all-out attack is unlikely.

However, he emphasized the urgent need to protect assets in the Indo-Pacific region against China’s “blackmail, brinkmanship and coercion strategy with missiles.”

“This is likely to require light protection in some places but heavy protection in Guam,” Roberts said.

Besides China, the region is also facing threats from North Korea, which is accelerating its advances in weapons and missile technology.

Karako said the U.S. has "to honor the threat” by providing reliable and mature integrated air and missile defense systems for Guam that have interoperability with other forces and ground-based fires in the region.

"Guam is going to need a lot of defense and we look forward to having that architecture proceed," he said.

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