GUAM TO CHALLENGE HAWAII FOR U.S. NAVY CARRIER

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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 27) - The island's
leaders said yesterday they would be thrilled to have an aircraft carrier
homeported in Guam, but at this point such a move by the Navy is purely
speculative.

The Honolulu Advertiser yesterday reported Navy Atlantic Fleet
Commander Adm. Robert Natter, in a May 16 Defense Forum Foundation meeting, said
increased threats in Asia "demand a shift to the Pacific from the
Atlantic," stirring up speculation the Navy may intend to shift one of its
aircraft carriers in the Atlantic to a home port in the Pacific.

An Associated Press article reported Hawaii's congressional
delegation has said the Navy is seriously considering locating a carrier at
Pearl Harbor.

Gov. Felix Camacho said if that is indeed the case, his
administration intends to campaign aggressively to have Guam considered as a
better home port option than Hawaii because of its strategic location near
hotspots of world conflict.

"We have already started preparations to accommodate a
carrier, including the dredging that's ongoing down at the Navy and the wharf
expansion at the port. This is a sign to the Navy that we are serious about
it," he said.

"At this point, however, I believe there has been no
official determination that a carrier will be placed in Guam."

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said homeporting a carrier here
would be mutually beneficial for the island and the military.

"We're very interested in stepping up military activity on
the island -- we welcomed the nuclear subs here, we welcomed the addition of
aircraft at Andersen Air Force Base. I took a tour of both the bases while I was
on Guam a few weeks ago, and you can see by the looks of the bases that they are
anticipating a big buildup," Bordallo said.

Carl Peterson, chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed
Forces Committee, said it makes sense for the nation to homeport an aircraft
carrier in Guam.

"The Department of Defense has a lot of budget constraints,
too, and for them, time is money," he said. "So once we are set up to
service a carrier battle group, from that point on we think there's going to be
a lot of cost efficiencies by being located out here. The reason is, we think
there's going to continue to be hostilities in the Far East, and it could be a
major benefit to the nation to simply act as a deterrence if nothing else."

The Advertiser cited a 1998 study of aircraft carrier basing
done by Hawaii's Chamber of Commerce that estimates a carrier would have a $375
million annual economic impact and create 4,200 jobs.

Peterson said the move would help Guam's ailing economy.

"If a carrier is stationed here, the benefit to Guamanians
is going to be that there's going to be a ton of jobs available, through
hundreds of companies, and lots of opportunities to climb the economic
ladder," he said.

June 27, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

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