By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio today urged the U.S. military to disclose more details on the missile defense system being proposed for Guam as part of the Pentagon’s combat readiness in the Indo-Pacific region.
During a meeting with Undersecretary of the Navy Erik Raven in Adelup, Tenorio said he discussed the administration’s “expectation to ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam during these dynamic times.”
“I expressed to him our desire to get details on the missile defense infrastructure
and understand the environmental consequences of whatever is planned and executed,” Tenorio said.
“I also told him that tourism is very important to us and that we want assurances
that the new missile defense system is not going to limit commercial air activity on Guam,” he added.
The Pentagon is proposing to invest $1 billion to build an integrated air and missile defense architecture on Guam. The system with 360-degree coverage includes command and control, sensors, radars, launchers and interceptors that will be installed throughout the island.
Citing the Missile Defense Agency’s budget documents, the Congressional Research Services' August 2023 report said the architecture is projected to demonstrate “initial capability” in 2024, followed by “enhanced capability” in 2029. The project is expected to continue developing through the 2030s.
The public commenting period for MDA's environmental impact statement related to the missile defense architecture ended on Aug. 11. The agency has identified 21 potential sites for the architecture’s multiple mobile components.
“No new information (has been provided) since we are in the formal process for the EIS but I took the opportunity to raise the concerns since the Navy is the owner of most land,” Tenorio said.
“The Navy and the entire DOD understand what our top priority is and are supportive. There are teams working on these, which is why securing the land is vital,” he added.
According to a Defense News report on Dec. 7, 2023, Pentagon leaders considered 2024 a crucial year for the Army to bolster defenses around Guam by moving assets into place to ward off a potential attack by China.
However, Mark Montgomery, a defense expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Army may struggle to beat its deadlines.
“We’re talking about something that needs to be delivered fairly rapidly by a program executive that is not known for delivering fairly rapidly,” Montgomery told Defense News.
“There’s a real threat to Guam, not just because [China has] some vendetta against the island but because there’s a lot of U.S. combat power there that would flow toward China in the case of a war in the Taiwan Strait.”
Capt. Courtney Hillson, spokesperson for Raven, said the Navy will continue enhancing its presence, partnership and power projection capabilities in the Indo-Pacific.
During the meeting in Adelup, Tenorio and Raven “discussed the importance of the Indo-Pacific region,” Hillson said in a statement. “They both emphasized Guam is a strategic hub and a valued partner of choice.”
Tenorio said the meeting also tackled Guam’s partnership with the Department of Defense to support the construction of a new Guam hospital.
“Our priority is to ensure that the quality of life for the people of Guam is improved as a result of the expanded military activities, “ he said.
Hillson said Raven is also scheduled to visit defense facilities, speak with military leaders and service members, and meet with civilian community leaders "to listen and talk about the importance of the region and role of the military during this era of strategic competition,."
Raven will leave Guam on Jan. 11 and proceed to Hawaii to meet with senior military leaders.