Pentagon reconsiders pricey Guam move
By Otto Kreisher
CongressDaily May 7, 2009
The Marine Corps commandant told House appropriators on Wednesday that the initial $4 billion estimated U.S. cost for relocating thousands of Marines from Japan to Guam is "way short" of what the service will likely spend.
"It will be far more than that," Gen. James Conway told the House Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee.
Conway said the decision to move more than 8,000 Marines from Okinawa and some bases in mainland Japan would be reconsidered as part of the global basing study during the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. The Defense Department will have to come up with a prioritized list of projects and determine Guam's ability to support the additional forces, the commandant said.
Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., opened the issue, saying he was concerned that Guam does not have the infrastructure to support all the Marines and additional sailors that are planned to be based there.
Conway agreed and noted that plans call for $3 billion a year in construction over a considerable period, and the territory of Guam could support only half of that. He also expressed concern about the ability to provide training facilities for those Marines.
Japan has committed to financing most of the cost of moving the Marines out of the bases on Okinawa, which are impacted by the growing population. But the Japanese government is struggling to provide the funds for that effort and the relocation on the island of a Marine air base.
Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards, D-Texas, asked if additional funds were provided in the fiscal 2010 budget to reflect the higher cost for the Guam move. Conway noted that he could not provide details until the budget is released on Thursday, but said "X amount of dollars" were in the budget.
Most of the big expenses, he added, were in future years, subject to decisions made in the QDR.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., noted that the Navy's plan to relocate a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla., also would be reviewed in the QDR. But Crenshaw asked Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations who also attended the hearing, if he still supported that move.
Roughead said he did, because he considered the concentration of all five of the Atlantic Fleet's carriers in Norfolk a security risk. He noted that the six Pacific Fleet carriers are in three locations.
The Virginia delegation has protested the move, arguing that the Navy could not afford what could be as much as $1 billion to prepare Mayport to host a nuclear carrier. The base had been home to the conventionally powered carrier John F. Kennedy, which has been retired.