U.S. Will Fight from Guam and for Guam, U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Says

Sailors deployed from Naval Beach Group 1 navigate Improved Navy Lighterage Systems in Apra Harbor, Guam. U.S. Navy / Chief Boatswain’s Mate Daniel Nguyen

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy admiral in charge U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said building up the defenses of Guam is his highest budget priority and reminded observers Guam is not just a base for military operations but a part of the American homeland, and should be defended as such. 

Guam, a large island southernmost of the Marianas island chain, is a U.S. territory and has been a U.S. base since before World War II — except for the Japanese occupation during 1941-1944.  

“Guam is absolutely critical in maintaining deterrence and stability in the region,” said Adm. Philip Davidson, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, speaking March 4 during a webinar of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “It is our most critical operating location west of the International Dateline. Funding for the air and missile defense of Guam is my Number 1 priority — most importantly because Guam is U.S. homeland.  

“There are 170,000 Americans living in Guam, and their defense is homeland defense,” Davidson said. “Defense Department personnel comprise some 13% of the total population on Guam, a total of nearly 22,000 service members, civilians, contractors and family members that are supporting America’s of Guam. That doesn’t even include rotational forces [that deploy to Guam].” 

Davidson said Guam is a “critical nexus for command and control, for logistics and sustainment, and for power. It has strategic deep-water ports and airfields. We have billions of dollars in military capability in Guam today and there are billions of dollars programmed by the United States to advance those capabilities tomorrow.”

He pointed to an example, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaine, established in November 2020 and built to garrison 5,000 Marines as the first new Marine Corps base established in the Pacific since 1952. 

The admiral wants to establish Aegis Ashore missile-defense facilities in Guam to augment the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense radar system already in Guam and provide 360-degree missile defense of the island and “the full spectrum of detect-to-engage sequence, the sensing, the network and the delivery of fires to support our maneuver.” 

He pointed out that an Aegis Ashore facility would accomplish what otherwise would require three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to defend Guam, ships that could be freed to employ their multi-mission capabilities elsewhere. 

Davidson responded to critics who say that bolstering missile defenses of Guam would make the island a target, noting that “it already is one. China is making no secret of this fact, as evidenced in last fall’s widely circulated PLA Air Force propaganda video which specifically depicted an attack on a mock-up of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. 

“In all, the Guam defense system will allow us to regain the advantage, help us to deter China, and will demonstrate our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the region that we are here to stay and to defend what is ours,” he said. “… It is not a de facto status that we only need to be able to fight from [Guam] — we’re going to have to be able to fight for it, and missile defense in the region is critical.”