UAVs, Navy, Satellites, Battle Stars

This post, which I want to keep pretty short, feeds off my post on re-orienting national security priorities.

I read a fascinating paper provocatively entitled “How the US Lost the Naval War of 2015” (PDF), by James Kraska.

It takes a look at what is happening now as the US Navy flounders and the Chinese Navy quickly ramps up, and then suggests what might happen if China decided to sink the USS George Washington in 2015.

What fascinates me about this is that US Navy dominance is sort of seen as a given these days, something not worth worrying about, but naval supremacy has always been a significant factor behind any superpower’s reign of world affairs.  The US gladly took over the mantle of naval superiority and its positive externalities for world security after the United Kingdom found it in their best interest to ally with the US.  The Royal Navy’s battleship-style fleet did not transition well into the age of submarines and aircraft carriers.  The loss of the Suez Canal was a significant barrier, as well.

So the US took over after World War 2 and has since controlled the oceans.  This has enabled it to push an era of free trade and open water travel that has made it cheaper to ship resources than even to fly them, so much that the cost is almost negligent.  In terms of protecting capitalism, having the US superpower in control of the oceans has been incredibly successful.

Now the US focuses more on satellite/overhead imagery, and more recently, on asymmetric warfare.  Which has left several gaps in the American strategic security worldview.

The paper suggests that China could destroy a US carrier, which would have a psychological effect on Americans perhaps bigger than a physical effect, although with a Chinese contractor shutting down the Suez for “repairs” and China throwing up other roadblocks, this could delay the US in appropriately responding its massive, yet diffused fleet into the Pacific.  Control of the Pacific would shift as China’s neighbors, by sheer proximity, would be reluctant to move to counter China’s naval aggression.  What would the US be able to do?

It’s a fascinating paper although obviously it only looks at an American military perspective and not all the other factors:  economic, cultural, etc.

But it also makes me wonder why the US is so focused on a small group of jihadists when there are bigger fish to fry for continued American dominance.

1) It is in the US interest to ensure continued and unfettered control of the oceans, to ensure open trade, safe shipping lines, and access to necessary strategic hold-points like Guam, Hawai’i, Okinawa, Europe, and other navy bases.

Robert Kaplan is associated with the neo-cons but he is an excellent security historian.  What he says about US naval moves against China is that we should focus on building our presence so enmeshed with Pacific interests that China will be more inclined to ally with us than to try to displace us.  This is a strategy akin to the UK realizing it had to partner with the US after WW2, and akin to the argument that alienating Japan before WW2 would push them to attack the US for control of the Pacific.

Some quotes:

“None of this will change our need for basing rights in the Pacific, of course. The more access to bases we have, the more flexibility we’ll have—to support unmanned flights, to allow aerial refueling, and perhaps most important, to force the Chinese military to concentrate on a host of problems rather than just a few. Never provide your adversary with only a few problems to solve (finding and hitting a carrier, for example), because if you do, he’ll solve them.

“Andersen Air Force Base, on Guam’s northern tip, rep- resents the future of U.S. strategy in the Pacific. It is the most potent platform anywhere in the world for the projection of American military power. Landing there recently in a military aircraft, I beheld long lines of B-52 bombers, C-17 Globemasters, F/A-18 Hornets, and E-2 Hawkeye surveillance planes, among others. Andersen’s 10,000-foot runways can handle any plane in the Air Force’s arsenal, and could accommodate the space shuttle should it need to make an emergency landing. The sprawl of runways and taxiways is so vast that when I arrived, I barely noticed a carrier air wing from the USS Kitty Hawk, which was making live practice bombing runs that it could not make from its home port in Japan. I saw a truck filled with cruise missiles on one of the runways. No other Air Force base in the Pacific stores as much weaponry as Andersen: some 100,000 bombs and missiles at any one time. Andersen also stores 66 million gallons of jet fuel, making it the Air Force’s biggest strategic gas-and-go in the world.

“Guam, which is also home to a submarine squadron and an expanding naval base, is significant because of its location. From the island an Air Force equivalent of a Marine or Army division can cover almost all of PACOM’s area of responsibility. Flying to North Korea from the West Coast of the United States takes thirteen hours; from Guam it takes four.

“”This is not like Okinawa,” Major General Dennis Larsen, the Air Force commander there at the time of my visit, told me. “This is American soil in the midst of the Pacific. Guam is a U.S. territory.” The United States can do anything it wants here, and make huge investments without fear of being thrown out. Indeed, what struck me about Andersen was how great the space was for expansion to the south and west of the current perimeters. Hundreds of millions of dollars of construction funds were being allocated. This little island, close to China, has the potential to become the hub in the wheel of a new, worldwide constellation of bases that will move the locus of U.S. power from Europe to Asia. In the event of a conflict with Taiwan, if we had a carrier battle group at Guam we would force the Chinese either to attack it in port—thereby launching an assault on sovereign U.S. territory, and instantly becoming the aggressor in the eyes of the world—or to let it sail, in which case the carrier group could arrive off the coast of Taiwan only two days later.

“During the Cold War the Navy had a specific infrastructure for a specific threat: war with the Soviet Union. But now the threat is multiple and uncertain: we need to be prepared at any time to fight, say, a conventional war against North Korea or an unconventional counterinsurgency battle against a Chinese-backed rogue island-state. This requires a more agile Navy presence on the island, which in turn means outsourcing services to the civilian community on Guam so that the Navy can concentrate on military matters. One Navy captain I met with had grown up all over the Pacific Rim. He told me of the Navy’s plans to expand the waterfront, build more bachelors’ quarters, and harden the electrical-power system by putting it underground. “The fact that we have lots of space today is meaningless,” he said. “The question is, How would we handle the surge requirement necessitated by a full-scale war?”

“There could be a problem with all of this. By making Guam a Hawaii of the western Pacific, we make life simple for the Chinese, because we give them just one problem to solve: how to threaten or intimidate Guam. The way to counter them will be not by concentration but by dispersion. So how will we prevent Guam from becoming too big?

“In a number of ways. We may build up Palau, an archipelago of 20,000 inhabitants between Mindanao, in the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia, whose financial aid is contingent on a defense agreement with us. We will keep up our bases in Central Asia, close to western China—among them Karshi-Khanabad, in Uzbekistan, and Manas, in Kyrgyzstan, which were developed and expanded for the invasion of Afghanistan. And we will establish what are known as cooperative security locations.

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens. Because the CSL concept is built on subtle relationships, it’s where the war-fighting ability of the Pentagon and the diplomacy of the State Department coincide—or should. The problem with big bases in, say, Turkey—as we learned on the eve of the invasion of Iraq—is that they are an intrusive, intimidating symbol of American power, and the only power left to a host country is the power to deny us use of such bases. In the future, therefore, we will want unobtrusive bases that benefit the host country much more obviously than they benefit us. Allowing us the use of such a base would ramp up power for a country rather than humiliating it.

“I have visited a number of CSLs in East Africa and Asia. Here is how they work. The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media—and they long preceded the response to the tsunami, which marked the first time that many in the world media paid attention to the humanitarian work done all over the world, all the time, by the U.S. military. The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.

“The first part of the twenty-first century will be not nearly as stable as the second half of the twentieth, because the world will be not nearly as bipolar as it was during the Cold War. The fight between Beijing and Washington over the Pacific will not dominate all of world politics, but it will be the most important of several regional struggles. Yet it will be the organizing focus for the U.S. defense posture abroad. If we are smart, this should lead us back into concert with Europe. No matter how successfully our military adapts to the rise of China, it is clear that our current dominance in the Pacific will not last. The Asia expert Mark Helprin has argued that while we pursue our democratization efforts in the Middle East, increasingly befriending only those states whose internal systems resemble our own, China is poised to reap the substantial benefits of pursuing its interests amorally—what the United States did during the Cold War. The Chinese surely hope, for example, that our chilly attitude toward the brutal Uzbek dictator, Islam Karimov, becomes even chillier; this would open up the possibility of more pipeline and other deals with him, and might persuade him to deny us use of the air base at Karshi-Khanabad. Were Karimov to be toppled in an uprising like the one in Kyrgyzstan, we would immediately have to stabilize the new regime or risk losing sections of the country to Chinese influence.”

2) To reinforce naval supremacy will require control of the skies and space.  Orbital satellites provide significant communications for all American forces and commercial interests, and a satellite war would cripple American capabilities.

3) Protecting satellites and increasing outer space security will require something akin to George Friedman’s (CEO of STRATFOR) battle stars (read “The Next 100 Years”), large manned orbital stations that provide armaments and increased surveillance for protecting satellites, providing imagery and comms to the ground, and even shooting down rockets, planes, or attacking ground targets.  Friedman suggests 3 battle stars could be required, orbiting continually in line with the earth’s orbit to always provide overhead support in certain regions.

Says John Reilly in a fair review (read the rest) of George Friedman’s book:

“The section on the Third World War allows the author to wax techno-thrillerish on the matter of mid-21st- century weaponry. We learn a great deal about hypersonic weapons and their ability to blow up unsatisfactory objects anywhere on Earth in a matter of minutes. He has plainly thought a great deal about the military applications of space which, again, he views as an extension of Mahan’s strategy of controlling the world’s trade routes. We get a description of geosynchronous Battle Star observation-and-command stations. (He adopts the term “Battle Star,” without noting the implications of that term for his optimistic view of the military and civilian applications of robots of all kinds.) We also get an excursion to bases on the Moon that sounds not altogether unlike Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.””

4) UAVs will continue to improve in sophistication and lethality, and are already providing extra eyes for American border security (see San Diego), Afghanistan/Pakistan targets, and eventually everywhere.  They are rapidly getting improved optics, more dangerous armaments, higher altitudes, and more time overhead (like these UAVs that can hover instead of do racetracks).  UAVs will probably be complementing increasingly robotic android armies, taking humans off the front lines to be replaced with dispensable robots to do war-fighting and perimeter security.

These seem like very far-off strategic priorities but these must be driven by intentional funding, innovative projects, and understanding by the citizenry of their importance.  I am far more in favor of continued intelligence dominance by the US than I am of attempting to do neo-colonial counter-insurgency and nation-building abroad, when domestic security and international respect for governments would suffice in building networks against terrorist plots.

There are plenty of other questions, too, such as whether it would be bad for China to compete with us or take over the seas.  Or what the impact would be of increased naval presence in the Pacific (see below the long comment about Guam).  Or whether alternatives are viable (building floating bases instead of using land).  I’d like to see more discussion on all of that below, if you could take the time.

  • Archie

    The social and human costs of exploiting Guam for U.S. defense purposes:

    The Military Buildup being planned for Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands chain is being sold to us (the people of Guam) as a once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunity. But if you read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) put out by the Department of Defense, it quickly becomes clear that this is far from the truth. And if you know your Pacific history, it is a simple connection of dots to see that the Buildup will likely be as cataclysmic for our people and environment as the atomic testing at Bikini was for the Marshall Islands.

    Below are a collection of facts taken from the Draft Environmental Statement released November 20, 2009:

    I. ECONOMY
    Myth: The military buildup will be great for Guam’s economy.
    Fact: The military’s DEIS document states that very little money will go into Guam’s economy. According to the report, most contracts will go to large off-island companies, not to local contractors. Most money spent by the 80,000 newcomers will be spent on base, at companies also based on-island, not at local businesses. The 40,000 low-paid workers imported from the Philippines will not spend their money on Guam, but will send most of it back home.

    And don’t think that Guam residents will benefit from an increase in construction jobs. According to the DEIS, at the projected 2014 peak in such jobs, only 2,566 will go to Guam residents, while 15,157 will be taken by off-island workers.

    In addition, the military conducted a separate report which revealed that the cost of living will rise, but wages will remain low too low to keep up with skyrocketing costs. Guam Housing Urban Renewal Authority Executive Director, Benny Pinaula, does not feel the buildup will help keep housing affordable.

    How will GovGuam fare during the buildup? The costs to the Government of Guam associated with the buildup will be $2.9 Billion dollars. But GovGuam officials are uncertain as to how those projects will be paid for.

    Eddie Calvo explained that the buildup will cost millions of dollars to maintain roads, to upgrade wastewater treatment and by taking revenue from the port. Calvo recently wrote that the $50 million appropriated for roads within the 2010 Defense Budget is “a drop in the bucket to what is required to expand the roads and harden bridges to handle the thousands of containers and workers that will be arriving on island.”

    To sum things up, the military build up will NOT help local Guam businesses, will NOT provide a boon in construction jobs, will NOT be an economic boost for local Guam residents, and will cost Guam’s government millions of dollars. The fact that the DEIS was written by big defense contractors in Hawaii, not Guam, indicates where the money will go, and it is not to you and me.

    II. NOT A “DONE DEAL”

    Myth: The Guam Military Buildup is a “done deal.”
    Fact: The Military Buildup is NOT a “done deal,” as the Pacific Daily News would have us believe. There are many variables that need to take place in order for it to happen.

    The buildup depends on what Japan decides to do. The U.S. is relying on Japan building an additional base on Okinawa in order for the troops to transfer from there to Guam. They are also depending on Japan to kick in $6 billion to help fund the buildup. However, Japan doesn’t want to build another base and it has been questioning the exorbitant expenses of the buildup, such as $775,000 per housing unit. Japan could make a decision that significantly delays the buildup, or even prevents it entirely.

    Especially since the economic downturn, the Pentagon, too, has been uncertain about the expenses of the buildup (see this article from as recently as May 2009: “Pentagon Reconsiders Pricey Guam Move” at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0509/050709cdam1.htm )

    The powerful Heritage Foundation, the ultra-conservative, rightwing think tank, has been behind this buildup from the start, and has been steadily lobbying Congress to spend the billions of dollars it will take to make it happen. The Heritage Foundation takes the “Manifest Destiny” view of America, that it must rule the world, rather than share the world. And yet, in December 2009, a Pew Research Center study showed that almost half of Americans think that their country should “mind its own business internationally.” No doubt, these people would be opposed to the idea that $15 billion in their tax dollars is going to the Guam buildup, devoted to the military domination of another hemisphere. If these people were even aware of the buildup, let alone if they knew where Guam was, they would object to their Congressional representatives’ greenlighting the buildup. So far, less than $1 billion has been appropriated for the colossal project. There is no guarantee that the remaining $14 billion plus will come through.

    So, it isn’t a “done deal” after all. It is a future that can be shaped by the strategy and foresight of the people, starting at the grassroots.

    III. WATER

    Myth: There will be no problem supplying water to 80,000 new people on Guam. All we need to do is drill 22 more wells.
    Fact: False. Twenty-two new wells will deplete our freshwater source. If there were enough water for that many more people, the DEIS would not have listed a desalination plant as a long-term solution. Desalination plants have adverse effects on the environment; and building one would make the people of Guam dependent on the military for the most basic resource for life – water.

    If there were enough water to go around, the military would not consider the development of Tolaeyuus River (“Lost River”) in Santa Rita, either, to augment the water supply during the dry season. This would entail dredging the reservoir area of the existing dam, and installing a pump station and pipeline.

    Another scheme listed in the EIS is a comprehensive dredging of Fena Lake to increase capacity. Dredging equals more environmental devastation.

    The DEIS makes no guarantee of water for the estimated 260,000-plus people to be on the island. So when you run short of water, as too many of us already do in Agat, Santa Rita, Piti and Asan, just remember the old Navy saying: “The needs of the Navy come first”.

    IV. SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CONFLICTS

    Myth: People living on the base and civilians will live together harmoniously, as “one.”
    Fact: The buildup will create three distinct classes: 1) the military, who will be given expensive homes and good salaries; 2) the local people, who will be marginalized as second-class citizens and 3) 40,000 “temporary workers” who will be housed in barracks.

    Billions of dollars are slated to be poured into construction inside the fence, while THERE ARE NO PLANS TO SPEND ANY MONEY OUTSIDE THE FENCE, except for road construction (not maintenance). There will be no money to help the current systems deal with infrastructure inadequacies or the expected rise in crime.

    The difference between “inside the fence” and “outside the fence” will be more evident within our education system than it already is. There is already a big difference between the quality of education between the DODEA schools and local public schools. The shameful separate-but-equal ethic is alive and well on Guam, and will thrive further if the military buildup is allowed to take place.

    Medical care and other social services will share similar problems. While military personnel on-island will receive better funded care, the thousands of additional people will overwhelm Guam’s already stressed medical and social services.

    Meanwhile, who will monitor and enforce the labor abuse of the temporary workers, most of whom will be from the Philippines and the Federated States of Micronesia? There is already a problem regarding huge human-rights and labor abuse on Guam. Human-rights violations will most likely get worse, without adequate monitoring or enforcement. In addition, the idea that these workers are really “temporary” is a myth. Studies show that the vast majority of workers who migrate to the states from the Philippines, even on temporary visas, stay, and create families. Do not expect a population reduction after the buildup.

    V. CRIME INCREASE

    The huge surge of young single males, both Marines and laborers, along with the disparity between haves and have-nots, will lead to an increase in crime, fights, alcoholism, rape and prostitution. According to the DEIS, the buildup will also cause an increase in drug smuggling, due to the increased flow of goods and legal and illegal immigrants into Guam. Currently, the drug methamphetamine is already readily available on Guam, due to a steady supply from the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and South Korea.

    VI. STRESSED SOCIAL SERVICES

    As pointed out by social worker Dr. Gerhard Schwab, social services cannot keep up with current demands. He says that currently, “children in private and public child welfare organizations experience neglect and abuse… hard-working families do not have the health care and family support they need to care for their elderly and sick family members … our best local social service professionals leave Guam because of poor working conditions and/or lack of support and resources for their work.” And that is the way things are now.

    If the buildup is allowed to go forward, troubles will get worse. The workload will double, while no money or resources are being appropriated to deal with these gigantic, foreseeable problem social problems.

    Peter Sgro, president of the Guam Healthcare Development Foundation, says 500-600 additional doctors, nurses, technical, management and administration professionals will be needed on Guam, should the buildup take place. Where will they come from? Currently, Guam already falls below the national average in terms of healthcare provider to general population ratio.

    VII. CROWDING
    Bottom line: More people, less land.

    Get ready for a road system that will be a constant traffic jam of construction trucks.

    The military is eyeing an additional 3,900 acres to take, including the FAA property, which was supposed to have been given back. The total amount of land they want is one and a half times the size of Barrigada.

    Regarding population increase: at first, the DOD told residents that the buildup would increase the population by 40,000, though they were always aware that the figure was really 80,000 — double that! Unfortunately, no one told the people of Guam until the last possible moment – the day the EIS was released (November 20, 2009). Why did they wait so long? Maybe because they knew how upsetting this information would be.

    Currently, the cap on H-2B temporary workers allowed to enter the country is only 66,000 for the entire United States. But on tiny Guam, that cap for such workers has been lifted. Instead of protecting the island from a surge of migrants, the government is encouraging a dangerous population spike. Clearly, no consideration was given to living conditions, resources or infrastructure on Guam. All that is considered important to project planners is to get the military facilities up and running – no matter what are the human, social or environmental costs.

    VIII. RACIST ATTITUDES

    According to the Draft EIS, the transplanted Marines will not have an impact on Guam’s overall crime and social order. Instead the report blames migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia as the likely cause. This blatantly racist mindset behind the planning of Guam’s future is deplorable and goes against everything America stands for.

    And racism will continue to flourish as the buildup’s planned social stratification takes hold, with predominantly Caucasian military personnel living in the most comfort inside the fence, while Pacific Islanders live outside the fence in lesser conditions, or outright squalor. It is tragically ironic that people native to the region are the ones to be relegated to the worst housing, the worst education system, the worst medical facilities, and the lowest wages. As 80,000 new people are dumped on Guam to fall into their preordained caste in this new “planned community” of Apartheid, the Buildup will exponentially accelerate the denigration of Pacific Islanders in their own land.

    IX. NO MORE GREEN SPACE
    Most of the four- and two- lane roads in the north will be widened to six- and seven-land highways.

    The greenery in the north will be removed, not just for road work, but to house many of the 80,000 new people. One hundred acres of jungle will be replaced by a camp for tens of thousands of low-wage laborers. More jungle will be razed to make way for the luxury military homes. These homes will be soundproofed to protect those inside from the noise of the new landing pad. Local homes just outside the gate will not have such sound protection.

    X. NOISE

    Aside from the harrowing noise of helicopters coming and going, the racket of weapons firing from the firing range will plague much of the island. A 2000 study from Asahikawa Medical College shows that aircraft-noise exposure resulted in a range of physical and mental consequences including sleep disorders, hearing loss, higher rates of low birth weight infants, fatigue, neurosis, and negative effects on children.
    XI. NO MORE ACCESS TO NATURE

    According to the impact study, “There are several recreational resources that the public would lose the access to, and the use of the features if the proposed action were implemented: Guam International Raceway, Marbo Cave, Pagat Trail and associated trails near it, cultural gathering activities (suruhana), and off-shore fishing near Marbo Cave.”

    The DEIS spends chapters detailing their plans for creating “recreation space” for their dependents. They go on about how important it is to make sure that there is lots of “wide, open, green space” within their neighborhoods. In the mean time, they are taking away OUR recreation space. They are lessening the wide, open, green space in OUR neighborhoods. And what does the DEIS say to try to make things better? It actually says we should replace our outdoor culture with indoor physical fitness centers, and indoor recreational resources such as bowling, skating rink, youth center, theater and recreational pavilion. Do they really think that bowling is an acceptable substitute for traditional fishing practices? Can they really be that culturally insensitive? And even if people wanted to go bowling instead of fishing, what makes them think local people would be able to afford such diversions, as the cost of living skyrockets against their low wages?

    XII. STRESSED INFRASTRUCTURE

    As 80,000 newcomers create waste and stress on our utilities and roads, the local people must cope with the burdened electrical system, continual road maintenance, limited water supply and thousands of tons of additional sewage. As mentioned earlier, funding for the Guam Buildup does not include any financial support for infrastructure outside the fence.

    XIII. DESTRUCTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE SITES

    The DEIS states that cultural heritage sites to be destroyed or compromised include locations at Apra Harbor, Anderson AFB, Orote Field, Anderson South, and a sizable portion of land south of Route 15. As described in the report, a parcel of land at Anderson Air Force Base that is rich in archaelogical artifacts will be subject to “100-percent disturbance.” In addition, it warns of increased vandalism at the historical coastal site of Haputo, rich with latte stones.

    XIV. THE DESTRUCTION OF PAGAT

    The limestone forest that stretches from Marbo Caves to Pagat Caves is being considered for use as a firing range, where the military can practice shooting and bombing. The land belongs to several families who have been caring for it for decades, choosing to not develop because they prize the land for its inherent values. Their efforts to keep the land pristine have made it more desirable for the military. The site in Pagat is registered at the Department of Historic Preservation as an archaeological site.

    XV. THE DESECRATION OF MOUNT JUMULLONG MANGLO

    This holy mountain, where thousands of island residents pilgrimage every year on Good Friday, is also being considered for use as a firing range. This is disrespectful of local Chamorro traditions.

    XVI. DESTRUCTION OF REEF AND FISHING IN APRA HARBOR

    Twenty-five acres of reef is slated to be dredged. The sediment churned up by the dredging will kill the coral that is not plowed up and the fish population. According to Manny Duenas, president of the Fisherman’s Co-op, the dredging will “affect Guam in itself because we know the fish don’t just live in one area.”

    Destruction to Guam’s undersea life will take place through regularly scheduled underwater detonations as part of war games training.

    XVII. LARGEST MANGROVE FOREST ON U.S. SOIL DESTROYED

    The dredging at Apra Harbor will destroy the mangrove forest there.

    XVIII. SEA TURTLE AND SPINNER DOLPHIN HABITAT DESTROYED

    The green sea turtle, the Hawksbill sea turtle and the Spinner dolphin, all protected by federal law, will be wiped out in Apra Harbor.

    We are trading endangered species and their ecosystems for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

    XIX. REMOVAL OF DUKDUK TREES; DECIMATION OF IFIT TREES

    The ifit tree is the official tree of Guam, traditionally used as timber, for fuel wood and craftsman art. The termite-resistant hardwood has completely disappeared from some parts of southeast Asia already and is increasingly harder to find on Guam. Construction eyed for Finegayan at Andersen South, and a firing range would decimate the critically-endangered ifit trees, says the DEIS. The construction would also require the removal of dukduk trees, a traditional resource used by canoe builders.

    XX. DESTRUCTION OF NATIVE MEDICINAL PLANTS

    The hundreds of acres of jungle to be destroyed or contaminated contains native plants used in traditional medicine. To destroy these plants is to destroy Guam’s Chamorro heritage.

    XXI. HAZARDOUS AND TOXIC WASTE

    The total amount of hazardous waste produced by the increased military presence will equal 8 tons per year! (according to the DEIS)

    The DEIS refuses to disclose all of the toxic and hazardous materials they will be storing; this is most likely because they are radioactive and banned from the shores of most countries. Our island is still in the process of decontaminating land and removing toxic materials left behind by the military; and many older generations of Guamanians suffer from an abnormally high cancer rate resulting from previous exposure to radiation by the military.

    XXII. DEPLETION OF REEF RESOURCES BY H-2 WORKERS

    What little reef resources are left may be quickly depleted by the underpaid foreign workers who tend to comb the reefs for food.

    XXIII. WILL AFFECT THE ENTIRE MARIANA ARCHIPELAGO

    The Guam Buildup does not affect only Guam. It will have grave, irreversible consequences for the entire island chain. The military does not see the Mariana Islands as a biodiverse treasure of natural wonders that the U.S. has even designated a protected Marine National Monument (“protected” from everyone except the military). Rather, the military sees our islands as a gigantic shooting gallery, which they’ve aptly re-named the Mariana Islands Range Complex (MIRC). Guam will be where the soldiers will live; the MIRC will be their enormous playground where they will learn how to destroy life.

    The MIRC area will encompass about 501,873 square nautical miles to include open ocean and coastal areas. The combined land area on Guam, Rota, Tinian, Saipan, and Farallon de Medinilla to be used for training areas and facilities will be about 64 nautical miles, and approximately 63,000 nautical miles of airspace will be designated as Special Use Airspace. Already bombing practice occurs routinely on Farallon de Medinilla, an island not long ago prized by locals for its excellent fishing. Now it is off-limits and contaminated, worsening by the day.

    Stopping the Guam Buildup will “cut off the head of the snake” that would otherwise kill or severely diminish the celebrated reef and land ecologies of the rest of the archipelago. According to the Population Reference Bureau, only 30% of Guam’s natural habitat remains. But that sad statistic is not shared by the rest of the islands in the chain, still plentiful in biological diversity.

    The spectacularly beautiful and ecologically rich island of Tinian would be hardest hit, if we let this happen. Tinian is home to many endemic species, including the Tinian Monarch, an endemic bird. The DEIS explains that the military intends to use two-thirds of the island to routinely conduct many hazardous activities, including live-fire training (which leaves behind depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials), various pyrotechnics and detonations both on land and underwater, and amphibious landings (heavy, lumbering tanks crushing the thriving reef as well as destroying the sea-turtle nesting areas on the beach). No species will be left undamaged. These activities will decimate one of the healthiest and most biologically diverse marine ecosystems on the planet, thus also destroying an important food source for its Pacific Island inhabitants.

    In addition to the destruction caused by bombs, tanks, planes, ships and nuclear and hazardous wastes, the islands will also suffer from opportunists “cashing in” on the sudden inflow of a large demographic of single males looking for “rest and relaxation.” As on Guam, we can safely predict a rise in prostitution, illegal drugs, and crime. On Rota – pristine and undeveloped; an authentic “tropical paradise” — the construction of two hotel-casinos are in the works, in anticipation of the Guam Buildup becoming a reality.

    As you can see from these facts presented in the military’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Guam Buildup is a recipe for nothing short of social and ecological disaster. Please do what you can to stop it.

    Here is an interesting observation from blogger Dave Owen (www.guamblog.com):

    “The Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS) wasn’t written to protect Guam. It was written to protect the U.S. government from criticism once things go wrong on Guam. The U.S. will say that the 11,000 page DEIS is evidence of its great concern and care for Guam. It’s just the opposite. It’s a pile of data and observation dumped on the island far too late, and Guam has been given precious little time – just 90 days – to respond to it. The buildup, as the DEIS illustrates, impacts every aspect of the island; the environment, land use and development, schools, health care, crime, roads — the sum of Guam’s quality of life. With the DEIS in hand, Guam’s government must now prioritize the buildup’s impact and then prepare mitigation strategies. It’s a Manhattan Project-sized task and one that’s impossible to complete in the amount of time available. Guam can rest assured that the U.S. will use the DEIS as its defense when things go wrong: We prepared you, Guam.”

  • Ben

    1) That’s good info that addresses the cultural and environmental impact, certainly. My post somewhat sadly only addressed security concerns.

    2) How do you balance these competing interests?

    3) Spam-troll bots scouring the internet suck. I e-mailed the associated address to see if it was sent by an actual person.

  • daniel

    The Guam situation is terrible. That place is destined to become a giant military airfield.

    But, on to my link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/14/AR2009121402861.html

  • Ben

    Good WaPo article on the Guam build-up and its complications.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/21/AR2010032101025.html