IF YOU were keeping an eye on your TV Wednesday morning, the message from the Joint Guam Program Office couldn’t have been clearer.
If there ever was a “pause” to the Guam military buildup, it’s now seems to be moving forward, along with many of the issues concerning Okinawa bases that tangled and delayed the plans of the U.S. to move out a large number of its Marines and transfer many of them to Guam.
The official word on the new shape and numbers of the Guam “Realignment,” formerly known as the Guam military buildup, put an official number of 5,000 on the Marines to be transferred, but did not clear up such issues as whether some of these troops would be rotational or permanently stationed here.
There were also lots of questions about the road ahead for the buildup, unanswered by the official Japan-U.S. communiqué to which we’ve been looking for answers.
Thanks to JGPO and its executive director Joe Ludovici, the people of Guam got some of their questions answered on live TV Wednesday, though Ludovici honestly – and refreshingly – admitted that he didn’t know all the answers.
The fact that Ludovici and JGPO (Forward) Director Capt. Daniel Cuff agreed to an open briefing, televised live from the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room, was a great improvement over past practice. What I’ve appreciated the most about JGPO as it is now operating is a willingness to acknowledge past errors and correct the course moving forward. This briefing was a good example. The buildup is moving ahead.
Ludovici shared his understanding that about two-thirds of the Marines destined for Guam will be ‘rotational,’ though the final decision on that is up to the U.S. Congress. On the other hand, according to the briefing papers, the move will include at least 1,300 dependants – a clear plus for our local economy.
Mr. Ludovici also made it clear that some of the previous planning, scheduling and timetables for the buildup had caused problems, which can now be straightened out.
As one person who has fielded hundreds, if not thousands, of “So when are the Marines coming?” questions, I very much appreciated Mr. Ludovici pointing out that many projects in support of the buildup have been underway all along, even if parties in Washington, D.C. continue to dither and argue about its final form. Six projects at Andersen Air Force Base and Apra Harbor are continuing and DOD has requested $165 million for the Marine Corps relocation for Fiscal Year 2013, with $139 million of that targeted to “off-base infrastructure and community support.”
Once again, this do-over allows planners a chance to re-think a lot of items that I feel badly needed review. A prime concern is the housing of new military and/or dependant residents of Guam. Sen. Respicio and I took advantage of the opportunity to emphasize that Guam’s off-base housing market has lots of capacity to absorb newcomers, particularly given the U.S. federal government’s financial constraints, of which we’ve so often been reminded lately. Guam’s private sector can handle many of the needs that might otherwise require that new housing be built on-base.
Without question, there’s a lot of planning and development work to be done, with deadlines for supplemental environmental impact statements to be accomplished inside of 2014 and a record of decision to be complete in 2015.
All in all, however, these latest developments are very good news for Guam and I deeply appreciate the positive and collaborative approach now being pursued by JGPO.
Sen. Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz[at]gmail.com.