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Virginia senator addresses Guam buildup

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - The Democratic senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, has completed his listening tour on Guam. After meeting with Government of Guam officials, members of the business community, and surveying the island Webb held a press conference this evening at the Hilton Hotel to discuss his conclusions and the message he intends to bring back with him to Washington, DC.  Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice and Director John Jackson were also in attendance.

During the senator's press conference Webb addressed a number of concerns, starting with the issue of funding. The senator said he intends to call on the Appropriations Committee to increase funding for civilian infrastructure appropriations and said he has had his staff back in Washington get in touch with White House officials already about using money that has not yet been obligated.

Having visited Tinian today, Senator Webb said he supports firing ranges on that island as well as looking at other ways it can be utilized in the military buildup so as to reduce the overall footprint on Guam. He cited environmental concerns and said he thinks that the timeline for the build up overall needs to be examined realistically taking into consideration his conversations and meetings with GovGuam officials, members of the business community and island leaders while on his fact-finding tour of the island.

Referencing conversations that he has had with government officials in Japan he reiterated that the Japanese governments views about the U.S./Japan alliance is no different than it has been in previous years and said that he believes closing a number of bases and reducing the presence of U.S. Marines from 20,000 to 10,000 will be a good thing and fit with the alliance.

Veteran advocate Tom Devlin asked how the senator intends to lobby for funding for veterans needs and facilities citing that the organic growth as well as buildup growth will undoubtedly impact veteran entities and facilities on island. The senator, himself a Vietnam veteran having served with the 5th Marine Regiment, cited his continuous support for veterans and noted that he pushed through the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which he maintains will continue to prove its success over the next twenty years.

The senator also said he intends to lobby to make sure that the Port Authority of Guam receives the financial support it will need to perform the vital tasks and operations it will be involved in as the buildup gets underway and moving forward.

As a  former consultant to the governor of Guam in the 1970's, Senator Webb said he is no stranger to the issue of political status and reiterated that he would be open to and supportive of examining Guam's political status noting the deep connection many Guamanians have to the mainland United States.  

The question was asked whether or not the timeline for the record of decision's signing might be extended to which Senator Webb did not provide a clear answer but did reiterate that there must be open and frank discussions about the timeline.

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