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Officials hope for ‘less rotational and more permanent’ presence

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 13, 2012) – The Marines who will move to Guam under a revised buildup plan will likely involve more ground troops, which means aircraft and waterfront training facilities could shrink in scope, said GovGuam's highest buildup official yesterday.

The military plans to build Marine training facilities at Andersen Air Force Base and Apra Harbor, but these plans were based on a different mix of Marines that required more headquarters -- flight and amphibious specialists -- said Mark Calvo, director of the Guam Military Buildup Office.

A new buildup plan has reduced the number of Marines headed to Guam from 8,600 to 4,700, and a larger percentage of those are what is known as "ground combat element," Calvo said.

The military also has said some of these Marines will be rotational, but did not state how many. By studying other "ground combat element" bases, Calvo said it is a likely estimate that about 50 to 60 percent of the Guam Marines will be rotational.

"I guess you can imagine that a parallel is the Air Force units, where they have bombers coming in every four to six months... The whole unit rotates out here for under six months, and that is what we are going to see with these Marine types," Calvo said, adding later: "But the administration is actively trying to influence that ratio to change -- less rotational and more permanent."

The previous buildup plan included an Andersen "North Ramp" facility with about 20 buildings and 25 stationed aircraft, and an Apra Harbor facility with a dozen armored amphibious vehicles, plus inflatable speedboats and reconnaissance rafts. Preliminary work in both areas has begun.

Calvo gave a presentation on the changing military buildup to the local chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association yesterday. The presentation touched on the buildup plan's hurdles in recent months.

A congressional funding restriction has halted buildup funding for this fiscal year, which led the Navy last weekend to announce the suspension of bids for a $3 billion, multi-award contract. About $600 million in buildup projects are ongoing and more funding waits to be spent in government coffers. However, the delay of the $3 billion Japan-funded projects was still a major blow to buildup-related economic expectations.

Despite the setbacks, Calvo said Marines could still begin shifting to Guam in 2014.

"It is going to happen," Calvo said. "If you read the tea leaves -- and I'm not a tea leaf reader -- you understand that national strategy in the Pacific is the only game in town." After the war in Iraq and the downsizing of U.S. troops in Europe, Calvo believes "this is where money needs to roll in as far as national defense strategy."

Calvo explained that Congress had set a series of benchmarks before buildup funding would be unlocked:

This has been done, Calvo said, and the commander's decisions are part of what shrunk the troop numbers planned for Guam. The entirety of the troops distribution hasn't been made public, Calvo said.

The master plan also has been done, Calvo said, although the plan now has to be adjusted for new troop numbers and a slower buildup timeline.

Work on this audit was supposed to be presented last week, but the project was delayed by the announcement of new buildup numbers, Calvo said.

This falls under the Department of the Interior, but funding hasn't been tied down, Calvo said.

"The Defense Department responsibility to help fund these infrastructure improvements is critical and prudent," Calvo said. "But finding out who exactly pays for that is a tough nut to crack... Where does Guam go for stuff outside the (military fence) line?"

Previously, the military was required to make "tangible process" on the Futenma Relocation Facility in Japan before the buildup on Guam can proceed, but the U.S. and Japan governments have since separated both issues.

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