Guam pleased with agreement on military construction funding

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 Construction projects at the Port of Guam are seen on Aug. 19, 2014.    Adrian Cadiz/U.S. Air Force
From Stripes.com
Construction projects at the Port of Guam are seen on Aug. 19, 2014. Adrian Cadiz/U.S. Air Force

Guam pleased with agreement on military construction funding

by: Matthew M. Burke | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 05, 2014

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Officials in Guam applauded an agreement made Tuesday by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to partially unfreeze funding for military construction related to the move of 5,000 Okinawa-based Marines and their families to the western Pacific territory.

The bill would set a cap on the move at approximately $8.7 billion and restrict the development of public infrastructure on Guam pending further study, according to a copy of the bill. Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan will pay $3.1 billion of that amount.

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The plan has been in limbo for more than three years since it was left unfunded by lawmakers concerned about costs and logistics. Despite Tuesday’s deal between the chamber committees, it must survive floor votes in the House and Senate and be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“We see this as a very positive step in the right direction,” said Mark Calvo, director of the Government of Guam Military Buildup Office.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Japan referred inquiries to the Pacific Command, which was unavailable for comment. Okinawa’s Gov.-elect Takeshi Onaga could not be reached and Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine declined to comment. Onaga is scheduled to assume office Wednesday.

Calvo, who is a veteran and distant cousin of Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, said only one major hurdle remains before construction can really begin: an Economic Adjustment Committee must report to Congress on the impacts the move will have on Guam’s services, what Guam requires to sustain the move, and budget lines to fund and mitigate the impacts of the move. He thought the report would be completed by March or April.

“We’re working very diligently with members of the EAC to produce this report accurately and provide it to Congress,” he said. “The people [of Guam] are happy.”

The move is scheduled to take place in the next decade as part of the realignment of forces in the Pacific region and is seen as a respite for the island of Okinawa, which is home to more than half of U.S. forces in Japan.

The progress of relocating Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Camp Schwab in the northern portion of Okinawa is not tied to the move of Marines to Guam, Calvo said. That issue has been a source of contention recently on Okinawa after construction began in August to install a new runway in the bay as part of the move. The anti-base Onaga was elected last month by 100,000 votes on a platform of stopping the move. Marine Corps officials have said they remain committed to the plan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan has already contributed more than $965 million for the Marine move to Guam.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

burke.matt@stripes.com

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