Friday, September 29, 2006

Military Will Take Land Based on Need (duh)

Land use depends on needs
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

The military development plan for Guam, made public recently by the U.S. Pacific Command, lays out two military training options for the Finegayan area of Dededo -- one that requires the use of non-military land for live-fire training and one that does not.

The non-military land in question is ancestral land located between the military's South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan properties. It currently is owned by two families and the Guam government's Ancestral Lands Commission.

When asked who will decide which option to use and when that will happen, PACOM public affairs spokesman Army Maj. David Doherty yesterday said the Joint Program Office, which will be set up under the Navy, will be responsible for further refining the military's plans for Guam.

"The Guam Integrated Military Development Plan is a planning document and not a program document," he said, adding that program documents will come from the Joint Program Office.

"This is an overall strategic plan," he said.

The development plan for Guam was approved by PACOM in July, but was released this month. In a September letter accompanying the plan, PACOM deputy commander Air Force Gen. Dan Leaf states, "This document contains the operational force laydown requirements for military development expected to occur on Guam over the next decade and beyond."

Leaf added that additional planning is needed to develop specific facility and infrastructure requirements here.

Governor's spokesman Shawn Gumataotao yesterday said military development plans are preliminary, noting that environmental assessments first must be completed during the next two years.

"In meetings with (Defense) Undersecretary Lawless, (Leaf), as well as Adm. (Joseph) Leidig, all three have committed to the governor that they would stay within the footprint of the current federal properties where Navy and Air Force activities are currently under way," he said.

According to the plan, the military currently holds 40,000 acres on Guam.

During an interview with the Pacific Daily News earlier this month, Leaf said each branch of the armed services normally handles its own construction projects, equipment and training requirements, but he said the scope of the work to be done on Guam required the creation of a program office to tie everything together and to address broader issues.

It is expected to cost the Japan and U.S. governments about $10 billion to transfer 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam -- a move that is not expected to happen for at least 6 years, but which first requires additional military facilities on Guam to accommodate the shift.

"The nuts and bolts of military development on Guam will be the responsibility and authority of the Joint Program Office," Leaf said. "They will provide a key interface and work with people in the government of Guam ... It will have representatives from all the services."

Population increase
According to the development plan, the military expects the current population of military personnel and dependents to increase from 14,190 to 40,380 -- an 185 percent increase. The Marines and their families would account for 18,250 of that increase.

To handle the additional personnel and their dependents, the Department of Defense would need to build more schools here, in addition to the new DODEA high school already being built at the Naval Hospital property, the plan states.

The Defense Department's school system on Guam would need two new elementary schools, a middle school, and a new northern Guam high school -- possibly at Finegayan -- to handle 4,160 school-age dependents.

The northern high school would be for students from military facilities in northern Guam, the plan states, and reduce the impact on the high school at Naval Hospital.

Originally Published September 30, 2006

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