Senators call on DOD to rework buildup plans - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Senators call on DOD to rework buildup plans

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Just a day after NAVFAC Pacific Announced an indefinite delay in the submission of bids for the $3 billion worth of Japanese government-funded multiple award contracts, three U.S. senators are calling on the Department of Defense to re-examine the military buildup plans for Guam, calling the current plans "unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable."

"There's going to be a buildup period," explained Guam governor Eddie Calvo. "There's going to be more sailors, airman and or Marines on this island in the next several years. Now, how it breaks down - that's subject to speculation." Legislative Speaker Judi Won Pat added, "I think the military buildup is still going to happen; it's just not going to be as big as they'd hope to have it."

Calvo and Won Pat still believe there's going to be a military buildup on Guam, but whether it will be the 8,000 Marines and their families and the billions of dollars worth of construction projects that were originally anticipated remains to be seen.

U.S. Senators Carl Levin, John McCain and Jim Webb are the latest officials seeking answers from the Department of Defense and giving indications that there may be some changes to the original buildup plans slated for Guam. The three, who sit on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, want the DoD to re-examine plans for Guam, Japan and Korea - specifically examining the feasibility of moving Marine Corps assets at Futenma, Okinawa to Kadena Air Base and moving parts of assets at Kadena to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and/or other locations.

They also proposed the revision of the Marine Corps Force Realignment Implementation Plan for Guam to consist of a presence with a permanently-assigned headquarters element bolstered by deployed, rotating combat units that are home-based elsewhere and consideration of off-island training sites.

Senator Levin stated that much has changed since the U.S.-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation Agreement was signed in 2006. He added, "The projected times are totally unrealistic.The significant estimated cost growth associated with some projects is simply unaffordable in today's increasingly constrained fiscal environment. Political realities in Okinawa and Guam, as well as the enormous financial burden imposed on Japan by the devastation resulting from the disastrous March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, also must be considered."

Governor Calvo reacted to the senators' proposals today, saying, "There is going to be a buildup, at least that is the desires of the Defense Department. The Obama Administration, based on my discussions with the Obama Administration...again, how it mixes in regards to the Armed Forces, that's up to again speculation at this point and conjecture at this point."

While national media reports have speculated that the changes in the buildup could stem from a decrease in public support for the buildup, which could be a result of politics and increased criticism by local leaders, the governor believes the majority of people on the island still want to see the buildup occur. "Because there are some elected leaders that have made some very strong and harsh statements, in my opinion. But again, I do believe a majority of the people in Guam want to see a buildup just as long as again that in the end the quality of life for our people improves rather than deteriorates," he stated.

Speaker Won Pat meanwhile says she wasn't surprised by the senators' proposals, saying in recent months there's been growing concerns from members of the House and Senate publicly stating that building a base on Guam may not be realistic. Although elected leaders have been blamed for being critical of aspects of the buildup, Won Pat insists the cuts that are being considered aren't just targeted for Guam, but at bases around the world because of the financial crisis occurring both nationally and internationally not because of the political climate here.

"They're asking the hard questions," she told KUAM News, "so I think to try and put blame I think on the elected officials they're using us as a scapegoat to this. Whether it's to save face for themselves because they pumped up everybody here and others outside, countries and big companies wanting to come here. They want to save face for them."

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