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Troop transition focus of DC conference

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The delays in the military buildup on Guam and whether the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to the territory should even occur was the focus on discussion at a conference held in Washington, DC today, sponsored by the Okinawa Prefectural Government. 

Brookings Institution senior fellow in foreign policy's Michael O'Hanlon proposed that building Marine barracks and facilities on Guam would be too costly. "My view is this would actually save the United States money because it would actually eliminate the need for building big Marine Corps facilities on Guam and bring half of the Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. mainland or Hawaii rather than Guam," he said.

O'Hanlon pitch was part of a larger plan that he said would preserve the military and lower the burden on Okinawa while saving the U.S. Government money. Senator Jim Webb, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, made it clear he disagreed with the idea. "I believe that we should be relocating forces on Guam," he said.  "I think it would be a huge mistake to bypass what we can bring to Guam from Okinawa in terms of strategic relevance."

He also stressed the need that officials must resolve the basing issues on Guam and do so in a timely and cost effective manner. Webb expressed concerns that an ongoing Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement could slow the buildup on Guam down another 3-5 years. He stated, "I don't see that sort of rule making is what we need in terms of timing for something like this. I don't see why these environmental statements should drag out as long as they have."

Webb added, "I cannot imagine why in an area where we already have bases where they've already done one round of EIS that we should have to wait for the time period that we do."

When asked about the budgetary constraints, Webb stressed that Guam is a major player and is under utilized and many of the cost elements are over stated. He also refuted the notion that island residents and leaders oppose the buildup. "My view is that that people of Guam want the military bases. We've had been discussions there in any of these situations there are concerns that local populations raise," he said.

"My view is that the people of Guam are wondering why it's taking so long similarly the people of gum are wondering why it's take so long.

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