By Agnes E. Donato
The global economic crisis has not had any adverse funding impact on the planned military buildup in the Marianas, but the program's director says it is not unlikely.
In a meeting with the CNMI Legislature on Friday, the chief of the Joint Guam Program Office said that the multi-billion military expansion program, funded jointly by the U.S. and Japanese governments, continues despite the economic problems facing the United States.
“Right now, we've not seen any impact on [our funding]. But I'm certainly cognizant of economic pressures on the budget. We'll be prepared to react to that if that happens. But right now, the program continues,” said JGPO director David Bice.
He added that the programmed expansion in Guam, which involves the transfer of some 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa, is on track to be completed by 2014.
Bice also reported that the U.S. Department of Defense expects to have its draft master plan for the CNMI's part in the military buildup by December of this year. Citing experience with the Guam master plan, which he said has gone through about five revisions so far, Bice said the CNMI's draft master plan, once released, would be subject to many changes depending on public input and other factors.
Although the focus of the relocation effort is in Guam, the program involves using Tinian and possibly Pagan and other parts of the CNMI's northern islands, as a military training site.
The draft environmental impact study for the military buildup is expected to be out in early spring next year, Bice said.