Friday, April 20, 2007

Near Continuous CNMI Presence

The Saipan Tribune
Friday, April 20, 2007
'Near continuous' presence of Marines expected
By Agnes E. Donato

The U.S. military held a public meeting on Saipan last night to hear what local residents have to say about the planned relocation of 8,000 Marines to Guam.

The Joint Guam Program Office will hold a similar public meeting on Tinian from 5pm to 9pm today.

The open house public scoping meetings are being conducted to allow for public comment on the Environmental Impact Statement, which the military is writing in support of the proposed military buildup in Guam.

The exact number of people who attended the meeting could not immediately be ascertained as people would come and go. Nearly a hundred people were present during the early part of the public meeting.

JGPO executive director David F. Bice said the Commonwealth, especially Tinian, is expected to house training facilities when the Marines complete their transfer from Okinawa.

Although a permanent relocation of military personnel is unlikely, Tinian and other areas on the islands can expect a “near-continuous” presence of Marines training, Bice said.

“The likelihood and concept that the Marines will look at is to build ranges and facilities there. Not necessarily permanent brick and mortar facilities, but more of an expeditionary base camp-we call them warm bases-where they fall in on and operate out of. So you'd have barracks and maintenance facilities to support the Marines as they're training,” he said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

Bice said the relocation program would open a lot of opportunities for the government and local businesses to partner with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The military will need the government's assistance in providing power and water supply, and possibly road access, to its facilities. The private sector will be called upon to offer services and support.

“We would love to see an expansion in what we call the secondary market. People may not necessarily go and do construction, but there will be great need for information technology and services and support,” Bice said.

He offered this advice to local businesses looking to benefit from the military transfer: “Look into your strategic goals, see how you're set up-your financing, bonding capacity and training capacity. If you do need to retool and retrain your people, start now so they can be aligned to meet future requirements. Construction is going to start in less than three years; that's not very far away, particularly if you're trying to get ready.”

Bice said the military will conduct a series of industry forums o=in Guam in July or August to allow for networking between big industry and local business.

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