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Largest movement of U.S. troops since Vietnam

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 15, 2008) – The number of U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan to be relocated to Guam had risen from 8,000 to 12,849 — more than half of the American troops stationed there, according to the April 2008 Guam & CNMI Military Relocation draft environmental impact statement.

Their dependents that will move to the territory are now estimated to increase to 10,350 from previous estimates of 9,000.

The report submitted to the CNMI Legislature also indicates 5,000 civilians will be part of the relocation of the troops to Guam between 2012 and 2014.

[PIR editor’s note: The above figures bring the total number of troops, families and civilians expected to move to Guam to 23,699.]

The movement of the troops described as the largest since the Vietnam War is part of the Department of Defense’ national security initiative in the Western Pacific Region.

The project also involves the construction of berthing for visiting aircraft carriers and the establishment of a U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Defense Task Force in Guam.

"These actions are proposed to occur over the four-year period between 2010-2014. DOD’s national security initiative would increase the military role of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific, support U.S. alliance commitments and strengthen U.S. national security," the report said.

The establishment of a ballistic missile on Guam is an essential security measure in the wake of findings that about 90 foreign ballistic missiles were launched per year since 2002.

"The ballistic missile defense program develops the capability to defend forces and territories of the U.S. and its allies against all classes and ranges of ballistic missile threats," the report said.

"More than 30 countries have ballistic missiles and others are working to establish missile systems. These missile systems can deliver nuclear, biological and chemical weapons," the report added but did not identify the countries referred to.

The EIS for the islands continue to be a work in progress and is expected to be completed by 2010.

At which time, the construction phase for the facilities that will be used by the troops and their families is envisioned to begin.

The U.S. and Japan have agreed to spend up to $15 billion for the military buildup project in the region.

The U.S. Department of Navy is tasked to be the lead agency for the project.

"Multiple planning configurations are being considered to accommodate the placement of military facilities, the movement of personnel, and associated activities to achieve maximum operational and land use efficiency…. Construction and modification of facilities on Guam to support relocation of 12,849 Marines of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force and 10,350 dependents from Okinawa by 2014," the report said.

"This includes aviation and waterfront operations, training, main encampment, family housing and associated utilities, and infrastructure improvements. New training activities and associated facilities that could not be accommodated on Guam would be located in the CNMI (primarily on Tinian)," it added.

The U.S. military said several U.S. locations in the Pacific Region were analyzed for military relocation such as Hawaii, Alaska, California and Guam, including non-U.S. locations — South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Australia.

The analysis showed that Guam is the ideal location because of reduced response time as the island "is close enough to potential threats to employ rapid response capabilities, promote combined and joint training exercises with multiple U.S. allies and to implement treaty requirements."

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