Lynn: Guam Plays Pivotal Role in Globally Important Region
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
MANGILAO, Guam, Jul. 27, 2010 The realignment of forces on Guam is key to maintaining an effective U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region, the deputy defense secretary said here today.
“We need the right mix of forces to address the increasing set of security missions across the region,” William J. Lynn III told an audience of local officials and community leaders while taking part in the University of Guam’s Presidential Lecture Series.
Lynn made his first visit to Guam today to speak with government leaders and residents about the upcoming troop realignment and to see firsthand the status of the island’s infrastructure.
About 8,500 Marines are slated to move here from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement between the United States and Japan. The deputy defense secretary’s visit also underscores Guam’s importance to the stability and security of the Asia-Pacific region.
As the westernmost U.S. territory in the Pacific, Guam is centrally positioned in a region of increasing global importance, Lynn noted. The island offers access to U.S. allies and potential hot spots throughout the region – Guam is two-to-five hours by air and two days by ship from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia and other key western Pacific locations.
“From bases here, our forces can ensure the security of our allies, quickly respond to disaster and humanitarian needs, safeguard the sea lanes that are so vital to the world economy and address any military provocation that may occur,” Lynn said.
The realignment on Guam is part of a larger U.S. posture shift in Asia, Lynn explained, as forces become more “geographically dispersed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable.”
Geography alone guarantees Asia a key role in world affairs since Asia and the Pacific take up more than half of the Earth’s surface, with 43 countries and 60 percent of the world’s population, Lynn said.
“Reflecting its importance, five of the seven bilateral defense agreements the U.S. has are with nations in Asia,” he said. “Without question, the rise of Asia in economic and military terms is the most significant change in the strategic environment for the United States.”
Asia’s increasingly important role in world affairs offers the United States an opportunity, Lynn noted. The United States’ security interests and economic well-being “are integrally tied to this part of the world,” he said.
“As President [Barack] Obama has said, ‘Asia and the United States are not separated by this great ocean, we are bound by it,’” Lynn said.
Although focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Defense Department still is looking ahead, and Guam is a central part of the nation’s future, the deputy defense secretary said.
“We must commit our forces carefully to ensure they are effective across the widest possible range,” Lynn said. “And Guam is the linchpin in our force structure strategy in this region.
“Sustaining our presence here will help realize the brighter, more prosperous future that is within reach,” he added.
Lynn acknowledged that reconfiguring the U.S. military presence on Guam will be a long-term process. First, the infrastructure must be built up to support the incoming Marines and family members. The nation then must manage the construction effort and be able to ready Guam for a “long, successful future” upon conclusion of the build-up, he said.
“If done effectively,” Lynn said, “our work will help safeguard our fellow citizens, ensure the long-term health of Guam and bring continued stability to the entire Pacific region. And these are things we all have a stake in.”