Bombers away! More US subs and missile defense in Pacific?

AT SEA, USS FLORIDA.(AFP Photo / David Nagle)
Up to three more US attack submarines, a squadron of 12 B-52 bombers, 5,000 marines and missile defense systems may be deployed to the US territory of Guam. The suggested buildup could signal Obama’s Pacific strategy is beginning to shift into full gear.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank submitted a report to Congress last week outlining plans to turn Guam – located on the eastern edge of the Philippine Sea – into a veritable US fortress in the Pacific, Pacific Daily News reports.

A 109-page unclassified section of the report released to the public on Sunday set forth the extensive plan for the US to beef up its forces in the region. The suggestions are in line with President Barack Obama’s strategic plan released last January in which he called for a “rebalancing” of US military forces towards the Asia Pacific.

The CSIS recommendations would see up to three more additional attack submarines deployed to Guam and missile defense systems on the island’s military bases.

Guam currently hosts Submarine Squadron 15, which includes three Los Angeles class nuclear submarines.

The report also suggests moving a dozen B-52 bombers to the island, ending the current need to regularly rotate the squadron through a US Air Force Base on the territory.

However, infrastructure and housing upgrades would be necessary to accommodate the additional submarine and B-52 squadrons.

The report further outlined a plan to move up to 5,000 marines to Guam, though 8,600 had previously been projected as budget cuts are seeing widespread troop reductions.

Guam currently hosts Naval Special Warfare Unit One, which both includes three SEAL teams and a specialized group trained to deliver them behind enemy lines. If the White House accepts the CSIS recommendations, Guam could become the centerpiece of Obama’s plans to direct US forces towards South and Southeast Asia.

Intraregional shifts will also be met by interregional ones. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced this past June that the Navy would move 10 per cent of its surface ships and submarines from the Atlantic to the Pacific over the next eight years.

However, questions remained as to how efforts to redirect US forces to counterbalance a rising China could be sustained as the Pentagon faces up to $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.