Talks will focus on future buildup funding

WITH Japan and the United States agreeing to release the $1 billion seed money to begin their multibillion realignment of forces agreement that calls for a military buildup on Guam, officials of both countries are scheduled to meet next week on the island to talk about funding for succeeding years.

The Washington-based Retired Major Gen. David Bice, the executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, says a “one Guam approach” would be used to address all the concerns of residents and local officials on the buildup. The general spoke before the members of Guam’s four Rotary Clubs who held a joint meeting at the Marriot Hotel yesterday.

Photo by Rafael De Ausen/ Variety

The Washington-based Retired Major Gen. David Bice, the executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, said a “one Guam approach” would be used to address all the concerns of residents and local officials on the buildup that involves relocating 8,600 U.S. Marines and their estimated 9,000 dependents from Okinawa, Japan to Guam.

“This buildup is a catalyst for Guam and will bring unprecedented opportunities for the community. You may have read…that the U.S. and GOJ (Government of Japan) have signed diplomatic notes that transfer $498 million from Japan to the U.S. for the military projects. Combined with other Japanese funds and U.S. military contracts appropriated funding from Congress, we have over $1 billion in the bank to begin awarding contracts,” Bice said in his speech yesterday before the joint meeting of four Rotary Club chapters on the island.

“Next week, we will be meeting here in Guam with our GOJ colleagues to talk about funding for next year’s projects. Guam-based firms have been very competitive in winning build-up contracts, including 8a, HUBZone, large MACC, small business MACC,” he added.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel is due to sign in Washington on Sept. 20, the Record of Decision, for the buildup which entails relocating the troops, establishing a pier in Apra Harbor to support a transienting aircraft carrier and positioning  an Army Missile Defense Task Force on Guam.

The issuance of the ROD signals the start of the construction phase and the infusion of the $1 billion on Guam—at $500 million each from both countries—to finance various projects relevant to the buildup.

Japan and the U.S. agreed to spend at least $10 billion over the next few years to complete the buildup with 60 percent of the bill  to be borne by Japanese taxpayers.

Bice said Washington will make sure that Guam residents are not burdened with additional infrastructure needed to accommodate the relocating troops saying they are “working with our Japanese friends.”

“By the way, we are working with our Japanese friends to fund those needs without looking to the Guam civilian ratepayers to pay back any of that capital investment,” the general said, referring to the estimated $740 million needed to upgrade utilities in support of the Marine relocation.

The general stressed that Washington wants to see Guam and CNMI workers get the first priority for jobs that would be created by the buildup.

“We want to see Guam workers get first choice and will work with contractors to ensure they too look to Guam first for their workforce. The buildup also provides opportunities for the regional economy and CNMI business/workers will also benefit,” he said.

The military estimated more than 15,000 foreign workers may be needed to address Guam’s demand that will come along with the buildup-related construction projects.

Different cause-oriented groups and Guam officials have expressed concern over the impact of the buildup on the island’s environment.

Concerns were also raised on its impact on cultural sites.

Bice said the ROD will include a draft charter for a civil-military coordination council made up of GovGuam, federal agency and military representatives.

This body will be responsible for implementing adaptive program management that will control the pace and sequencing of construction and the flow of the Marines and their families to ensure that Guam is not over burdened with their presence.

“I am personally aware that the Final Environmental Impact Statement did not address all of Guam’s concerns, particularly some long-standing policy and federal funding issues,” Bice said. “We will continue beyond the ROD to have further discussions and collaboration between the military and the Guam community on program execution.”

“Training ranges will not be in use for some time, providing time and opportunity for the community and the military, including the Marines, National Guard, and others to find ways to protect access to the ancient and historic village of Pagat and preserve the site while meeting the training needs of the men and women stationed in Guam who protect us,” he added.

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