Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 25 Nov 2017 12am

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    Saturday, November 25, 2017-8:46:24P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Report favors Guam buildup, NMI training areas

AN independent assessment of U.S. defense posture commissioned by Pentagon revealed the need to beef up military presence in the Marianas.

The report, “U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessmetn” was presented by Center for Strategic & International Studies senior vice president and director of international security program David J. Berteau and CSIS senior adviser Michael J. Green before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness during the Aug. 1 hearing.

In their statement before the House subcommittee, Berteau and Green said the report highlighted five recommendations resulting from assessments made by CSIS on various options for U.S. force posture consideration in the Asia Pacific Region.

Of the five recommendations, under option two, the report called for implementation of U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee agreement to distribute four Marine Air Ground Task Forces across the Pacific.

Under this option, the report stated that “in the near-term, prioritize improvements in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that would be mission essential (particularly training, pipeline protection, and some infrastructure improvements), even if fewer Marines move to Guam from Okinawa.”

In line with the plan to relocate Marine forces out of Okinawa, the report sees Guam as a strategic hub as essential to the U.S. strategy in the Asia Pacific region.

It also called for the development of joint training facilities in the CNMI.

This, the report said, requires new funding arrangement with the Japanese government that would involve direct cash contributions, cost-sharing for new training facilities in the CNMI and a departure from its reliance on low-interest, long-term loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for housing and public-private ventures on Guam.

The report also recognized that the realignment of troops would remove about 9,000 Marines from Okinawa and redistribute them to Guam, Hawaii and Australia.

With nearly half of the Marines stationed in Okinawa would be stationed outside, the CSIS assessment pointed to the potential rotation unit deployments into Guam and Australia.

The report also underscored the development of the training facilities in the Northern Marianas as integral to the Marine relocation to Guam.

The CSIS report specifically mentioned the addition of training areas on Tinian and Pagan.

Assessing further the viability of this option, CSIS used four criteria: (1) geostrategic/security/political-military; (2) operational/force structure and management; (3) affordability; and (4) executability.

Under the first criteria, CSIS stated that all allies and partners in the region would support U.S. training facilities being established on Tinian and the CNMI.

The report also said that the N. Marianas training sites would increase the capacity for joint and combined training events.

Under the second criteria, CSIS stated in its report that training ranges support shaping operations, maintain readiness levels and help meet operational requirements for U.S. forces.

For CSIS, training ranges would afford partners the opportunity to participate in multilateral exercises.

Under affordability, the report acknowledged that it dealt with lack of detailed cost data to ascertain affordability.

“Construction of the training ranges in Guam and CNMI holds the most unknowns, even in a relative cost comparison,” said the report.

The downside to this option, however, is the increased costs.

Despite the issue on costs, the report, however, rated this option better in executability.

“Executability evaluations with respect to the training ranges score as positive,” the CSIS assessment said.

It noted that exercises are currently taking place on Tinian and the rest of the CNMI.

“This action is consistent with U.S. environmental procedures and expands U.S. and partner’ nations’ abilities to train in the area,” said the report.

Even under the third option, Guam remains an integral part of the U.S. posture alternatives that would increase U.S. capabilities in the Pacific.

The report stated that with an increased seapower posture, it highlighted the addition of a second squadron of three nuclear-powered attack submarines to Naval Base Guam in Apra Harbor.

This option, the report said, would not require construction as the existing infrastructure in Apra Harbor could accommodate an additional three submarines.

However, the report also stated that the additional submarines would create a larger footprint at the base and add congestion to the harbor.

Moreover, this would also mean increased demand for housing, schoolhouse training loads, among others that could require military construction and costs.

The CSIS report also highlighted that the Department of Defense is reasonably positioned to align and focus U.S. force posture in the Asia Pacific region.

It, however, said there is a need for an expanded, integrated PACOM focus on engagement, supported by the approval of incremental funding for key enabling actions.

It also called for DoD to work collaboratively with Congress in determining military construction and force structure requirements.

The report also recognized the U.S. strengths in undersea warfare, amphibious forces, command and control, missile defense and its allies in the region.

Meanwhile, Deputy Assistant Sec. of Defense for Plans Robert M. Scher and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David F. Helvey, in their joint statement to the House subcommittee, said, “The Department continues to pursue a defense posture in the Asia Pacific region that is geogprahically distributed, operatioally resilient, and politically sustainable throughout the region.”

They said that the U.S. strategy calls for rebalancing defence, diplomatic and economic resources toward Asia-Pacific region and enhancing of defense posture is just one aspect of the broader U.S. efforts at demonstrating commitment to the region.

They agree with the CSIS report that Guam will be a strategic hub in the western Pacific and they also see the “necessary near-term investments” to establish fully capable Marine Air-Ground Task Forces in Japan, Guam, Australia and Hawaii.

“The Department agrees with the CSIS assessment that there are opportunities to move forward with Guam and send an important signal to the region,” the two officials said.

They also added that “investments in training ranges in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and other locations, will enhance U.S. joint training opportunities, as well as combined training opportunities within our allies and partners.”

Meanwhile, in his July 24 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services, DoD Secretary Leon Panetta said as the CSIS assessment states, the plan advances DoD’s long-term goal to realign Marine forces in the Pacific.

He said that the assessment acknowledges other significant posture changes underway.

He also said that the report provided recommendations consistent with actions currently under consideration by the DoD.

He, however, expressed his concern with relocating less than 5,000 Marines to Guam.

“Moving fewer that this number would undermine our plan to establish multiple, fully capable Marine Air-Ground Task Forces across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Panetta also recognized that option 3 offers potential posture investments beyond the DoD’s current plan.

He assures Senator Levin that the department will continue to examine strategic and operational value as well as the plan’s feasibility and affordability.

He also urged the support of the Congress in implementing the vision for the future of the U.S. Armed Forces and their growing role in the Asia Pacific region.

Under Section 346 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the DoD was directed to commission an independent assessment of U.S. force posture in Asia.