Friday, October 05, 2007

Army Unsure of its Guam Needs

Army unsure of its Guam needs
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

The military continues to flesh out its plans for expansion on Guam, including the transfer of 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa, but still missing from the equation is the U.S. Army, which has not stated what it will need to operate here.

The military has proposed creating an Army base on Guam to provide missile defense, with as many as 630 soldiers and their families.

"We don't have the information yet," said Navy Capt. Robert Lee, acting director of the Joint Guam Program Office, who yesterday gave an update on the "Guam Military Master Plan" to the governor's civilian military task force.

The final version of the master plan for Guam is scheduled to be complete by next summer, and Lee described yesterday's presentation to the civilian military task force as, "Our first stab at a master plan."
The hourlong presentation was held at the University of Guam's business college, and Lee said it was an opportunity for the local task force to participate in the planning process. The governor and lieutenant governor heard the same presentation last Friday.

"No conclusions have been made at this time," Lee said, but he outlined some of the concepts that will drive the military's plans, including the military's desire to keep all of its activities on or near bases. The Marines like to live where they work, he said.

The plans for Guam mean the different branches of the service will share bases, Lee said, and the goal is to keep family and bachelor housing close to the bases and "quality-of-life" facilities.

The bases will be designed to allow for future expansion, Lee said, and to prevent the type of encroachment that happened at the Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma, in Okinawa. The base, which is next to the city of Ginowan, has generated concerns about community safety and the noise from military activities.

A billion-dollar road linking military bases in northern and southern Guam also has been proposed, but Lee said plans for a road will not begin until at least one of the services says it needs a road for its operations here. In the meantime, information about Guam traffic patterns will be included as part of environmental impact studies, he said.

While the Army has not yet weighed in on the expansion plans, Maj. Gen. Donald Goldhorn, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, said he met with the Army's Pacific commander last week to express concerns that the Army has been slow in stating its requirements on Guam.

Goldhorn, who is a task force member, said the logical location for an Army base on Guam is in Barrigada, next to the existing Guam Army National Guard headquarters. That way, the army, the army reserve and the national guard can share facilities, he said.

Goldhorn said army headquarters would be located in Barrigada, but its missile defense sites would be elsewhere on Guam, probably in the north and south.

For the most part, yesterday's update was consistent with the military development plan released by the U.S. Pacific Command in July 2006 -- land in Dededo continues to be the most viable location for the Marines, and Andersen Air Force base continues to be the most viable option for Marine Corps aircraft.

Lee showed the task force lists of locations for different types of activities, noting whether the sites are viable, potentially viable, or non-viable. Analysis of viable and potentially viable sites is ongoing, he said.

While the military has identified viable locations for most activities, it still has not found a viable location on military-held land for live-fire training, Lee said.

NCTS Finegayan is among the potential training sites, he said, but the military also is considering the use of non-military land.

"We're receiving inquiries from people about buying or leasing ... their land," he said.

Lee said it is not known whether the training sites will be attached to or apart from the military bases. "It's wide open right now. We don't know where to go yet," he said.

What is known is that there isn't a single location on Guam that will meet all of the military's training needs, Lee said, so the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas also is being considered for training. "The CNMI is an active part of this whole process," he said.

Task force member Tony Lamorena, who is director of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans, expressed concerns that a military-related report being prepared for Guam by a federally funded consultant appears to be written from the military's perspective, and not the perspective of the people of Guam.

Lamorena said the draft white paper by consultant KPMG is critical of the island's water and power agencies and its port, stating that they fail to meet the military's requirements.

Lamorena said the report instead should identity the community's needs and how those needs might be adversely affected by the military buildup.

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