Review: Pacific needs greater Navy presence
The Pentagon, in its strategic Quadrennial Defense Review, supports an increased Navy presence in the Pacific. But the report, released Friday, gives few details on how this vision might take shape, keeping the Guam-vs.-Hawaii aircraft carrier debate still very much on the table, officials say.
“All indications are that the possibility of home-porting a carrier on Guam or Hawaii continues to be under evaluation but that strategic reviews and decision-making processes remain,” according to a written statement from Madeleine Bordallo, Guam’s nonvoting congressional delegate.
The Pentagon has indicated, she said, that the decision would not be made until after release and evaluation of the Quadrennial Defense Review. In the meantime, Bordallo said, she continues to promote Guam, calling the Pacific island’s greatest advantage “our closer proximity to potential trouble spots in Asia.”
Across the Pacific, Hawaii U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye likewise is campaigning in promotion of his territory. In a statement, he said he remains committed to bringing a carrier to his home state: “The United States faces many challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, and I remain convinced that having a carrier based in Hawaii will be crucial for our national security.”
The Pentagon in its strategy review singles out China as the greatest military threat to the United States among major and emerging powers.
One disadvantage to moving a flattop to Apra Harbor is initial infrastructure needs: It’s been reported that the estimated cost of basing an aircraft carrier on Guam is $5 billion, compared to $2.2 billion for Hawaii.
But Bordallo countered, “While the costs for infrastructure improvements to our port to accommodate a carrier may be higher for Guam, there are other areas where Guam is more competitive, such as the cost of off-base housing and the overall lower cost of living for sailors.”
The Pentagon report offers no details about carrier basing, noting only that the Navy plans to have “at least six operationally available and sustainable carriers” in the region. The Navy currently bases five aircraft carriers in the Pacific: two in San Diego, two in Washington state and one in Japan.
The Quadrennial Defense Review also says that 60 percent of U.S. submarines will operate in the Pacific, but it does not outline how that balance will be achieved.
“No decisions to homeport more than three submarines on Guam have been made,” Bordallo stated. The review also does not cover whether current Atlantic-based warships will be assigned to new ports in the Pacific.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.