Investing in Guam infrastructure will boost the island’s resilience amid the growing threats of geopolitical conflicts in which the territory is strategically positioned on the front line, according to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero.
“As governor of Guam, I am deeply concerned for the security of my island and our nation. It is imperative that we confront these concerns with unwavering vigilance and foresight,” the governor said at the Defence Contract Summit held last week in Honolulu.
Commonly referred to as the “tip of military spear,” Guam is in the crosshairs of rogue nations such as China and North Korea.
“As we are all aware, Guam, given its strategic importance, now confronts a set of security challenges that are distinct and unprecedented compared to the past,” the governor said.
U.S. defence officials have repeatedly underscored Guam’s critical role as a logistics hub and jumping-off point for combat forces in the event of China’s attack on the U.S. homeland or invasion of Taiwan.
Despite the U.S. force posture and the island’s protective distance from China, military experts say Guam remains vulnerable to Chinese intermediate-range ballistic missile attacks. Hence the plan to build a US$1 billion Guam missile defence architecture to reinforce the existing deterrence such as a THAAD battery.
“We, the people of Guam, are fully aware that the Indo-Pacific is the priority theater for the furtherance of U.S. interests, ideals and security,” Leon Guerrero said.
But Guam’s defense requires more than military architecture, the governor said.
“In this very dynamic geopolitical environment we face, the defense and security of our island is also dependent on our ability to sustain ourselves as a people,” she said.
“This leads me to other Guam priorities in infrastructure. A robust modern infrastructure is essential to both our economic growth and our ability to respond to emerging security threats,” she added.
The Department of Defense is currently beefing up military resources on Guam, constructing facilities, such as training ranges and military housing, to accommodate the relocation of 5,000 Marines from Okinawa.
However, the governor noted that outside the military fence, community infrastructure, including water, power and the communications system, must be upgraded as well.
“Guam is presently engaged in a range of road reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, with federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Defense Access Road funds,” the governor said.
“These infrastructure investments will bolster Guam’s position as the most capable location in the northwest Pacific to handle investments of all sizes,” she added.
In the area of digital interconnection, the governor said Guam’s strategic location makes it an ideal area to route transpacific submarine cables.
Last year, GTa TeleGuam Holdings broke ground on the construction of a 31,000-sq.ft. data facility and landing station that can accommodate up to six submarine cables.
Besides Guam, U.S.-funded infrastructure upgrades and military buildup are also taking place on Tinian, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, which would be the divert operating sites depending on the threat’s direction.
“It is important to note that when addressing security concerns, we must not forget our brothers and sisters in the other Pacific Islands,” Leon Guerrero said. “Our islands share common challenges that must be taken into consideration which include climate change, workforce development, economic stability, transportation, logistics and digitalisation. All of these challenges must be addressed through the lens of regional security,” she added.