Sunday, April 12, 2009

Military Expansion Will Tax Guam's Infrastructure

GAO Says Military Expansion Will Tax Guam's Infrastructure
Walter Pincus
Washington Post
Sunday, April 12, 2009; Page A02

The infrastructure and social services on Guam in the next five years will not meet the needs of the more than 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents expected to relocate there, even as other U.S. military facilities on the Pacific island are expanding, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Under a 2005 agreement with Japan, the Marines will transfer from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. At the same time, a $13 billion expansion is planned for Air Force bases and Navy port facilities on the island. Together, the changes will increase Guam's population by almost 15 percent and "substantially" tax the island's infrastructure, the GAO said in a report sent to Congress on Friday.

Guam's water and wastewater systems "are near capacity and demand may increase by 25 percent," the GAO said. The island's solid-waste facilities have "reached the end of their projected useful life," and the military construction demands "will exceed local capacity and the availability of workers on Guam," the GAO added. As a result, outside workers will need to move to the island, the report said.

Also citing what could be an inadequate electric grid capacity and an overload for Guam's only two major highways, the GAO called on Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to urge that other government agencies make the island's problems a higher priority in their budgets.

Although the Defense Department is expected to pay for infrastructure projects directly related to the military buildup and contribute toward utilities and roads, the Guam government "is largely responsible for obtaining funding for civilian requirements related to the buildup," the GAO said.

At a May Senate hearing, Gov. Felix P. Camacho (R) said Guam would need $6.1 billion for fiscal 2010 to support the military buildup. Guam's revenue for fiscal 2010 is projected at $532 million.

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