By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The military spending policy for fiscal 2023 would mandate a comprehensive assessment of the proposed missile defense system for Guam, which is touted to provide a 360-degree shield to deter any potential threats to the territory.
The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which proposes a budget of $817 billion for the Pentagon, earmarks $1 billion for integrated air and missile defense architecture being planned for Guam.
The system includes multiple mobile components, such as a sensor, command and control, and interceptors that will be located across Guam.
The defense budget bill, which is still being finalized by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, would require the Department of Defense to commission a federal research center to look into the following aspects of the project:
The architecture's capability to respond to nonballistic and ballistic missile threats to Guam;
The development and integration risk of the proposed architecture; and
The personnel required to operate the architecture, including the availability of housing, water and power infrastructure on Guam to support the needed manpower.
Based on the House Armed Services Committee's full markup on H.R. 7900, the Department of Defense would be tasked with submitting "a comprehensive strategy to use asymmetric capabilities to defeat hypersonic missile threats."
The committee noted "the potential of using commercial systems or non-developmental radar upgrades to detect and track low-flying short-, medium-, and long-range hypersonic weapons or cruise missile threats."
A team from the Missile Defense Agency has completed its initial survey of military-owned properties on Guam to identify potential sites for the system's elements.
The U.S. military owns about 49,000 acres of land on Guam, roughly a third of the island.
In a press briefing on May 10, Rear Adm. Ben Nicholson, commander of the Joint Region Marianas, said the MDA conducted an engineering assessment of military land assets.
“They brought some high-tech group with them to assess electromagnetic spectrum and where things are best meant to go,” Nicholson said. “They are in the process of figuring out what systems go where.”
Defense officials have repeatedly cited Guam’s critical role in maintaining stability in the region while acknowledging the island's vulnerable position.
“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,” Adm. Philip Davidson, former commander of Indo-Pacific Command, said in a forum hosted last year by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
Congressman Michael San Nicolas said he anticipates over $1.5 billion for Guam under the 2023 NDAA.
"We are very pleased with the continued support of our colleagues to secure resources for Guam’s defense and our national security interests, which includes more funding for missile defense and the highest level of funding for military buildup projects on record," San Nicolas said.
He also cited the need for an extension of the H-2B program for Guam "to meet military and local project and housing needs, more frequent testing to protect our groundwater, and access to our base amenities for Homeland Security personnel and federal firefighters."