Calvo calls for progress on buildup
LOCAL leaders yesterday expressed their confidence in the U.S. military’s ability to defend the island and welcomed the announcement that the U.S. military plans to deploy a ground-based missile defense system within the next few weeks. Gov. Eddie Calvo also took the opportunity to tell the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that the delay in the military buildup imposed by its members has made the island a target.
The Department of Defense announced yesterday morning that it will deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system to Guam in the coming weeks as “a precautionary move to strengthen the regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.”
The THAAD system is a land-based missile defense system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, and an integrated fire control system. The deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in Guam and U.S. forces stationed here, according to the DOD announcement.
Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo issued a statement following a briefing at the Pentagon about the THAAD deployment: “Although North Korea continues to make aggressive threats that do not match the readiness or capabilities of their military, it is critical that we take every threat against our country seriously,” Bordallo said in the statement. “I am encouraged that the Pentagon will soon be deploying a THAAD missile defense system to Guam to defend our island and the Asia-Pacific region.
The Pentagon and White House have assured that the military is ready to respond to any threat to the country and its allies. This announcement is further proof that the military has taken the necessary and precautionary steps to ensure the safety of the island.
“These threats and North Korea’s nuclear test and rocket launches demonstrate the critical need for the rebalance to the increasingly vital Asia-Pacific region. I hope Congress recognizes that further delays in the Guam and broader Asia-Pacific realignments make our allies question our commitment to the region,” Bordallo’s statement said.
Calvo released a letter he sent yesterday to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, pointing out that a land-based missile defense system was part of the original Guam military buildup as unveiled in 2006. He noted, in particular, the efforts of Sen. John McCain that have resulted in the suspension of funding for the buildup on Guam: “While the Obama administration, the military and many others have preferred to keep our position as the ‘Tip of the Spear,’ Sen. McCain’s obstructionism has instead made us the ‘bullseye.'"
Because of the buildup slowdown, the military is now in a reactive situation on Guam, Calvo said. “Maybe if the delays had not occurred as a result of the efforts of Sen. McCain and others, we would have had the necessary progress here in Guam to have certain systems available,” he said during a press conference. “Now we are in a catchup situation.”
Guam Sen. Judith T. Won Pat, Speaker of the 32nd Guam Legislature, said that to her knowledge, Guam legislators had not been briefed on the THAAD deployment; however, she expressed confidence in the military’s defense posture. “The military knows best how to defend its assets, interest and people,” she said. “I’m confident that all due consideration has been given to ensure that our island is protected from potential harm from the North Korean threat, or any other military threat. As always, our people will support our armed forces as best we can.”
Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. also expressed confidence in the THAAD deployment. “I hope that relocating this system on Guam will further emphasize the need for a more permanent stationing of this type of military equipment on the island,” he said in a prepared statement. He also called for the installation of the island’s emergency warning siren system, a project that has been delayed for several years.
The THAAD is an Army missile system built by Lockheed Martin to shoot down ballistic missiles. The first THAAD battery was activated in May 2008, according to the Lockheed Martin website. In October 2011, during a test at the Army missile range at Kwajelein, Marshall Islands, THAAD missiles successfully intercepted two target rockets.
The Army has three THAAD batteries and all are located at Fort Bliss, Texas, according to an article in the EL Paso Times. “Officials would not say if the unit being deployed [to Guam] will be from [Fort Bliss],” the article said. Another possibility is that THAAD units sold to Middle Eastern nations may be diverted to Guam, the article said.
Questions about details of the THAAD deployment, including timeframe and location, were referred by local Navy officials to the Army Pacific public affairs office in Hawaii and were not answered as of press time.
Calvo calls for progress on buildup