Guam governor asks U.S. to delay military buildup
By Teri Weaver , Stars and Stripes
Online edition, Friday, January 29, 2010
TOKYO — Guam’s governor on Thursday asked the U.S. military to delay its plans to move more than 9,000 troops to the island.
In a subsequent news release on Friday, Gov. Felix Camacho said he thought extending the construction timeline would lessen the overall impact on the island. He did not offer specifics, other than to say the buildup should extend beyond 2014.
“There is support of the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and overall support for the U.S. armed services,” Camacho wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a letter dated Jan. 28.
“However, we must not overlook the reality that we have a fragile territorial economy, possess a limited amount of financial resources and lack the capacity to absorb the impacts of 20 years worth of growth in a five-year time frame.”
The request is not meant to signal an overall decrease in Camacho’s support for the project, according to the governor’s spokeswoman Charlene Calip.
Through a spokeswoman, Navy Undersecretary Robert Work said late Friday the Navy had received the letter and was working on a prompt response.
“The Department appreciates the Governor’s comments and will continue to work closely with Guam’s and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ elected leaders in the planning and execution of the military realignment,” Work said in a written statement.
But Camacho's request does come as more residents and local leaders have expressed concerns about the buildup in public meetings in recent weeks.
Mabus was traveling in the Pacific and could not be immediately reached for comment, according to Lt. Laura Stegherr, a Navy spokeswoman.
The buildup calls for adding nearly 80,000 people to Guam’s 178,000 population during the height of construction in 2014. Plans include permanently moving 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, adding an Army air defense unit, and building a wharf that can support three-week visits by aircraft carriers, which typically carry a crew of 5,000.
In recent weeks, the military, Guam’s legislature and Camacho have all held hearings on the project as part of a federally required environmental review. Some of those meetings have turned into platforms for sharp criticism of the buildup, with residents and local leaders questioning the military’s proposal to use land outside its current footprint.
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, the island’s non-voting congressional representative who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, was to fly back to the island to hold five more hearings on Saturday and Sunday.