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Top analysts, national security experts converging on Guam

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Experts value chance to see Guam firsthand

TWELVE of the nation’s top intelligence analysts and national security experts are participating in this week’s two-day regional security roundtable because they value the opportunity to deliberate, on Guam, the questions posed by the ongoing shift in the nation’s military focus, according to Carl Ford, one of the Washington experts approached by local conference organizers to select and invite the other participants. Ford is a former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, and spent four years as deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Defense.

The roundtable is to be hosted by the Guam-U.S.-Asia Security Alliance (GUASA) tomorrow and Friday at the Hyatt Regency Guam. It is entitled “U.S. Forward Deployed Forces and Asian Security: A Strategic View.”

“This type of conference is common; on this particular subject, it’s not,” Ford said. “When GUASA indicated they would like to have more attention paid to this subject, we readily agreed. There is a lot of general talk, but it hasn’t coalesced into a consensus about where we’re heading, what we should do. What we normally try to do is we put together a group of people who are the most influential, who talk to the defense department, who talk to the joint staff, who talk to the Congress, who talk to the White House, and get their ideas, [they will] argue with each other, but at least make some movement toward some overall strategic view of where we’re heading.”

Ford said he worked with Paul Giarra to put together the conference lineup. Giarra, whose consulting firm provides analytical support for the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, will also be at the conference.

No trouble

“We certainly didn’t have any trouble getting people to come,” Ford said. “We got virtually every person we wanted.” Where such a conference may have two or three upper-echelon experts, “at this one, we’ve got eight or 10 stars. ... They’re the people that people look to and say, ‘What do you think about the situation in Asia?’ Many of them testify before Congress,” he said. “This (conference) is only different in the sense that it gives us an opportunity to actually see for ourselves what we only talk about in a very theoretical and nebulous way. It’s real here and that adds to the value of the discussion.”

On Monday, Ford visited Saipan and Tinian, whose role in the regional realignment is also under discussion. Today, the group will tour Guam’s military bases, including the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile battery on Andersen Air Force Base, and be briefed by the military commands. “It was one of the big selling points when we talked to people about this conference,” he said. “Again, [it is a chance to] see for themselves.”

Impressed

Ford said he was impressed by “the interest here by GUASA for having specialists come out and see for themselves what Guam looks like, talk to the people here and get a firsthand view of ‘the lay of the land,’” Ford said. “For most of us, who have worked on this problem for years, the American presence in the Pacific is something that we’ve lived with, worked on and been a part of for our entire careers. Many of the experts that are coming are the same way. The environment in Asia is changing.” Throughout the postwar years, “trying to keep our forces deployed forward was always a constant job.”

The question of rebalancing forces to the Pacific is really not in question, Ford said, nor is the fact that Guam will have a role. “However, most people are worried about how much it’s going to cost and they want to make sure that as we do it, that we do it right,” he said. “Obviously, Guam is going to play some part in it, but we’re really talking about how we’re going to maintain stability in East Asia. That’s a huge problem.”

One aspect of the conference’s value will be to understand local concerns. “The one thing that I hope to come out of the conference is that we get a very good appreciation of what the people who are in the Marianas have to say about all this and that we avoid the mistakes that we made in Japan,” Ford said. “We wouldn’t even think of redeploying our troops out of Japan if we had been perfect neighbors. So being more attuned to local concerns, being a better neighbor is very important to a lot of us.”

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