The agreement with Palau, to allow American forces and resources to assert and defend Palau’s sovereignty is an important step in securing the all important Second Island Chain (Palau, Ulithi (Federated States of Micronesia), Guam, Tinian, and Saipan (the last three are American sovereign territory).
Palau is the site of a fairly substantial construction effort to establish an Over The Horizon Radar to see deep into China. We have other radars to keep watch on China, the Chinese know it and it drives the Chinese batty everytime these radars illuminate in an active mode.
This agreement with Palau is important - but what U.S. Forces are available to maintain a persistent presence to deter Chinese spy ships, “trawlers”, or other “Grey Area Influence Operations”?
The answer is that the U.S. Coast Guard, part of Department of Homeland Security is stretched extremely thin and their number one focus is to build a new fleet of Large and Medium Icebreakers to enforce sovereignty in the Arctic and support scientific efforts in the Antarctic.
The Navy has 20 or so Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) that are light war vessels. The Navy has never passionately embraced them and their Modular Mission Packages that were delivered far behind schedule. It was U.S. Military passive aggressive behavior on a grand scale that cost billions of dollar and delivered failure.
The LCS were never intended for high intensity combat with a large Chinese naval force with long range missiles and submarines in the forward area.
Basing a portion of the LCS Fleet in Palau and the second island chain either as U.S. Navy warships, or white hulled Coast Guard vessels would be a perfect use for these new and low mileage ships. It would be out of the potential forward high intensity combat area, but still serve a vital purpose, like Military Police securing rear supply lines to the front.
This masterful vision and execution would take valiant leadership committed to the building of capability to deter, and if necessary, defeat the growing Chinese military. I’m not holding my breath on this one.