Saturday, May 03, 2008

Marines Still Coming to Guam

Marines still coming to Guam despite rumors
Thursday May 1, 2008
By Zita Y. Taitano
Marianas Variety News Staff

THE Joint Guam Program Office is dispelling rumors that the Marines to be relocated from Okinawa will be transferred to Hawaii instead of Guam.

Because of a lag in the island's infrastructure upgrade and problems at the port, some quarters have suggested that it would be better for the military to move the Marines to Hawaii.

There are political considerations as well since Hawaii's lawmakers are lobbying to have some of the Marines relocated to the Aloha State.

Acting JGPO Director Capt. Robert Lee, however, said that this is not true. "They (Marines) are still coming to Guam. They're still on track," he said. "The move is still the same as always, for the 8,000 Marines and 9,000 families to come to Guam."

However, according to the website of Hawaii Representative Neil Abercombie, $21.2 million has already been budgeted for construction projects at Hawaii's Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay. While there was no mention of whether the budget included transferring Marines from Okinawa to Hawaii, it did list projects that would receive funding for design at the Marine Corps Base and makes mention of Okinawa.

In the website, at least $6.8 million will be used to support the relocation of the 3rd Marine Division Headquarters from Okinawa to Hawaii. This includes the company and division headquarters, armory, training facilities, motor transport maintenance, electronics, and communications maintenance.

Another $1.5 million will be used to transfer the 12th Marine Regiment from Okinawa. The rest of the funding would be used to build new facilities and expand current buildings at the Marine Corps Base.

In the meantime, Civilian Military Task Force Chairman Tony Lamorena confirms that there is a move being made by Abercombie. However, Lamorena said he had met with Marine Corps representatives on Guam on the matter and was told that transferring the Marines to Hawaii would not be a viable choice.

"It's most likely not going to happen and that a contingent from California will most likely be sent to Hawaii," Lamorena said.

Otherwise, it should be noted that this past Wednesday was the deadline for agencies that are part of the Civilian Military Task Force to submit a budget of financial requirements for fiscal year 2010 to the Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

Lamorena admits they have not received all of the budget requests. "Hopefully by today or early next week, everyone else will turn in their proposals," he said. "They have to project what their anticipated expenses are going to be in 2010."

The proposal will be turned over to Washington D.C. later on this month and will be comprised of agencies that will be impacted. They include the Department of Public Works, Guam Environmental Protection Agency, Guam Contractors Licensing Board, Dept. of Agriculture's Aquatic and Wildlife, Bureau of Planning's Coastal Management, and Department of Land Management.

Lee, in the meantime, indicated that budget requests for the construction required for the military buildup won't occur until two years from now. "Keep in mind they (federal government) are planning more for FY-2010. That's going to be the beginning of the actual construction funding." He said.

Gov. Felix Camacho is in Washington D.C. this week meeting with federal officials concerning the buildup. In his recent state of the island address, the governor mentioned that he and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo would be "presenting their case" on the build up before Congress.

In the recently released draft military buildup master plan, the preferred site for the new Marine Corps Base on Guam is still near the Navy Computer and Telecommunications Station in Finegayan, Dededo. The draft master plan also lists an area of Apra Harbor that would be expanded for the Marines and Navy and the addition of an Army Missile Ballistic Task Force.

Residents are invited to discuss the plan from May 12 through May 15 in the following villages: May 12 - Mangilao community center; May 13 - Yigo gym; May 14 - Dededo community center; and May 15 - Yona community center.

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