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Think tank chair says Guam defense operations should stay behind the fence

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The missile defense system being planned for Guam must be installed inside the military fence and away from the civilian neighborhoods, according to Robert Underwood, chair of the think tank Pacific Center for Island Security.

The former congressman said the proposed enhanced integrated air and missile defense architecture puts the Guam community in a new category as a lab for military experimentation.

The public commenting and scoping period for the project ends today, but Underwood said the information shared with the community leaves much to be desired.

The project involved the deployment of a 360-degree missile defense system consisting of radars, interceptors, sensors and missile launchers that will be spread throughout the 20 sites identified by the Missile Defense Agency.

Underwood said public participation in the process is limited to environmental and historic preservation issues under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act. The community is left out of the big picture.

"Here is the first major disjuncture in this review process. We are being asked to present commentary within the framework of NEPA and NHPA, but the rationale for establishing the EIAMDS is far beyond the scope of why the system is being established in our island community," Underwood said. "We are being asked to address the impact of the EIAMDS rather than the reason for its existence."

Last week, the Missile Defense Agency announced plans to launch the first flight test of some elements that will make up the air and missile defense architecture of Guam in December 2024.

Underwood maintained that defense operations "should remain on offshore military platforms and not moved ashore in Guam."

"While most are on existing military property, the impact of these sites on the life of the island will be extensive and far beyond the fence line that we assume divides civilian and military communities," he added.

Underwood noted that the process involves complying with federally required and regulated series of deadlines and issues for consideration, but the "disjuncture between the rationale and the process for input is reflected in the rhetorical rationale for establishing the EIAMDS and the forms given to us for input."

"We are told that we need to establish this as soon as possible and that it may be too late since a conflict may be on the horizon. The most recent briefing is being offered by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. It is titled 'Missile Defense of Guam- No Time To Waste, No Time to Lose.” It is as if the basic decision has already been made and we are being asked to comment on how to adapt to or mitigate the implementation." Underwood said.

"Some will argue that this process is the same as provided to every other American community which may be experiencing a major Department of Defense-induced change in their lives," Underwood said.

"But the point is that this is not just like every other American community. Our political standing in the American family is insecure and uncertain because we are an unincorporated territory. Perhaps our political insecurity and lack of authority over our own island is comparable to the insecurity which China may be generating," he added.

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