Sen. Clynt Ridgell wants the Department of Defense to find solutions to the "negative economic impacts" as noted in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
The senator sent out a press release Tuesday focusing on the impacts the shift in Marines from Okinawa to Guam would have on the local community. The release was titled "Military Says Buildup May Increase Cost of Living, Poverty, Homelessness, Crime and Impact Low Income Households."
"The purpose of the release is to draw attention to DOD's own findings with regards to the negative economic impacts of the buildup in light of the narrative that the buildup will be good for the economy," he stated. "I propose that DOD come up with ways to address these negative economic impacts since it is their proposed action that will cause these impacts."
Many elected officials over the years have either been sharply critical of the buildup or supportive of it so long as it benefits island residents.
Previous Department of Defense estimates place the Marine base project's cost and other expenses, associated with reducing the U.S. military's presence in Okinawa, Japan – by moving to Guam more than 4,000 Marines, plus about 1,700 of their dependents – at upwards of $8 billion.
Already, a number of local companies have either received contracts directly from the military or as subcontractors to other companies that have been awarded military contracts related to the buildup.
Study: 'Low-income people' at greater risk
In his press release, Ridgell said Page 12 of the Record of Decision for the FSEIS reiterates that the military buildup "may stress some sectors of the Guam economy (e.g., housing, costs of goods and services) ..." and "This impact would be felt more severely by low-income people, who often do not have resources to buffer hard economic times." The FSEIS is a study that was produced by the Department of Defense as a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Ridgell acknowledged that the buildup will mean more jobs but said many of those jobs may be filled more by off-island, as opposed to local, labor.
For years, the Guam Department of Labor and Guam Community College, along with members of the private sector, have tried to attract more people to construction jobs – which is the most immediate need as the buildup gets underway. GDOL has held training camps and other programs to get local residents interested in the construction industry certified and ready for the buildup.
Even with those programs graduating and adding to the local skilled workforce, the total still falls short of what's needed for the buildup, considering the breadth and number of the military construction projects.
Adding to the need in the private sector are the projects that come from the island's increasing population and the organic economic growth that accompanies it.
Local and military officials have said the breadth of the military, government and private sector construction projects require that the workforce be augmented with off-island skilled workers.
Other areas of concern
Ridgell also noted other areas of concern, including housing and a possible increase in crime.
He cited Page 184 of the study, which states: "The possible combination of higher costs of goods and services with higher housing costs would likely affect low-income people while those with many resources may thrive economically due to enhanced business opportunities. Stressful economic circumstances may push people on the verge of poverty into poverty or even homelessness."
Page 12 of the ROD also states in part, "There is a potential for sociocultural impact associated with an increase in crime and social disorder."
Ridgell stated, "While the buildup may benefit some, everyone needs to know that the buildup may not benefit all. The people of Guam need to know that DOD's own findings suggest that the buildup could raise the cost of living, increase crime and harm low-income families – most of whom will not be hired for jobs in the construction industry or military civilian positions."