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  • Writer's pictureBy Mar-Vic Cagurangan

US lawmakers seeking to cut funding for Guam-based missile defense program

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Intel official: China danger is 'clear and present already'

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs for San Diego, in this May 25, 2021 file photo, marking the completion of its deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

Members of the U.S. House appropriations committee are seeking to strike off funding for the Guam-based missile defense program proposed by the Indo-Pacific Command, according to Breaking Defense.

The committee is threatening to defund the proposed Aegis Ashore missile defense system amid a new warning from a ranking intelligence official that the danger posed by China's repositioning "is clear and present already."

"There is an issue of war being alerted to us," said Rear Adm. Mike Studeman, director for intelligence at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. "The degree of pressure that China is placing on us is a lot to think about."

Speaking at a July 9 virtual forum with the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, Studeman said the U.S. is not adequately equipped to confront a burgeoning conflict in the region, which would require a response similar to that of World War II.

"Every dimension we saw in the 20th century exists here in the 21st century. The degree of action that we need to take is of magnitude that we applied during the previous century and we are not there yet," Studeman said.

“Many have recognized this and we are mustering up our best plans and best policy actions but the scale of it is incredible," he added.

Breaking Defense, an online military publication, reported on July 13 that the House Appropriations Committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss and mark up its version of the defense budget.

A preliminary version calls for cutting research, defense test and evaluation funding by almost $1.6 billion and plugging another $1.74 billion toward procurement needs, Breaking Defense reported.

“I'm wondering how many folks in Washington are truly persuaded by the warning which the intelligence community has already provided, regarding the dangers that exist within this decade, soon, now, with regard to the nature of the Chinese threat, and how it manifests, and what to do about it,” said Studeman.

Thinking that the looming conflict in the region is just based on the Taiwan scenario reflects a failure to understand the complexity of the situation, Studeman said. “It’s not that simple,” he added.

As far as the U.S. military is concerned, Studeman said, the possibility of China resorting to military action "is just a matter of time, not a matter of 'if.' We would say the danger is clear and present already.”

"Committee members indicated that their concerns about Guam are less with the concept of the system and more with the fact that DoD has not provided the information members feel they need to support it," Breaking Defense said.

The proposed Aegis Ashore missile defense system on Guam is a component of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a five-year,$27 billion proposal, submitted by Adm. Philip Davidson, then Indo-Pacom commander, to the U.S. Congress prior to his retirement earlier this year.

Overall, the initiative proposes $350 million in 2022 for the Guam Defense System, as part of a $1.3 billion effort by 2027.

Another component of this initiative is a $197 million tactical multi-mission over-the-horizon radar for Palau. The proposed radar system is aimed at spotting air and surface targets.

At his nomination hearing in Congress in March, Navy Adm. John Aquilino, Davidson's successor, said getting the Aegis Ashore missile defense system on Guam would be his priority.

“Global peace and prosperity depend on our presence in the Indo-Pacific,” Aquilino told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing.

“The Chinese are increasing their capability and capacity, and closing that gap," he told the committee. "We've seen aggressive actions earlier than we anticipated, whether it be on the Indian border or whether it be in Hong Kong or whether it be against the Uyghurs.”

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