01 April 2005

Anchoring America’s Asian Assets: Why Washington Must Strengthen Guam

Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, Anchoring America’s Asian Assets: Why Washington Must Strengthen Guam,” Comparative Strategy, Vol. 24, No. 2 (April-June 2005), pp. 153-71.

Rising threats to American national security in East Asia coincide with declining local support for U.S. basing access there. Yet no alternative access points are currently available. To prevent this contradiction from harming U.S. interests in that strategically vital region, U.S. planners have finally recognized the imperative to build up Guam as a sovereign anchor of America’s force posture in East Asia. To maximize its ability to deter hostility, gather information, and overcome aggression, the U.S. Navy should continue to develop Guam as a forward logistics hub. A diversified and expanded American military presence on Guam will offer maximum flexibility in times of crisis and help ensure that future contingencies–such as the rise of a belligerent China, a change in Japanese foreign policy, or a reunification of the Koreas–does not create a “missing link” in the chain of U.S. capabilities. Moving assets westward across the Pacific and maintaining a flexible and growing constellation of facilities and access rights in East Asia would keep that chain strong–and even the most determined enemies would not be able to dislodge its anchor, Guam.

This article examines regional threats to American interests, Guam’s importance as a forward logistics hub, and the infrastructure renaissance and regional access initiatives that will be necessary to help Guam fully realize its new role. In it, we first explain the importance of strengthening port facilities in Guam, to fully transform it into a supply and logistics hub capable of supporting operations throughout East Asia. Second, we examine American interests in this vital region, with particular emphasis on the new national security strategy and potential sources of instability. Third, we critically evaluate the call of the Quadrennial Defense Review for “places, not bases.” Fourth, we review the various political constraints on U.S. action in the region. Finally, we consider the merits of access to specific ports.