Marianas Has Advantage As U.S. Military Pivots Toward Pacific

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Military Contracting Forum told CNMI in good position to benefit

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 19, 2012) – As the U.S. military pivots toward the Pacific, the Marianas have a geographic advantage in terms of hosting the forward deployed forces.

Citing the difficulties relating to having U.S. military bases on foreign soil, Joint Region Marianas Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas Commander and U.S. Defense Representative for Micronesia Rear Admiral Payne said, "It is going to be more challenging for us to maintain those kinds of stations."

During the Tinian Chamber of Commerce’s U.S. Military Contracting Forum at the Tinain Dynasty Hotel & Casino last Friday, Payne said, "If we have a bunch of forces forward in the Pacific, we need places to refuel, re-arm, rest, relax and sustain; we need places that are not foreign bases, that are on US territory. So the Marianas comes to mind."

Although there are as yet no concrete plans as to exactly how this shift of forces toward the Pacific will play out, Payne assured the attending business people that the Marianas has a definite advantage.

Payne predicts that, with guidance coming from President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, "there are a lot of forces coming to the Pacific."

He said they are bringing in forces to the Pacific and they need places, preferably U.S. territories, where they can train and conduct exercises.

He noted that to date, the Northern Marianas has hosted several exercises including Operation Geiger Fury in May, Operation Tempest Wind and the the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s certification exercise in September.

"It has been a while since you have seen that kind of activity on Tinian," he said.

Payne also shared the feedback from the military personnel who participated in those exercises held on Tinian.

"If you talk to any of them, they will tell you that they were great training opportunities. It is a great place to come, work, and hone their skills."

He reiterated the military’s view that they would like to pursue a "symbiotic" relationship with the community.

Through cooperative relationships between the military and the community, "working together, building trust and transparency, we can all benefit as we go through these next few years."

He praised the forum organized by the Tinian Chamber of Commerce as critical to creating a "cooperative, engaged dialogue between the military and the community."

As he talked about the withdrawal of forces in the Middle East, and where the military intends to be in the next 10-20 years, Payne said the shift has come to the Pacific.

"This is the area where there will be the most opportunities, the most challenges in maintaining global stability, global trade and global economic development," he said.

60 percent

As U.S. forces pivot to the Pacific, Payne said that from the Navy perspective, "We are going to bring 60 percent of our ships to the Pacific."

This is a shift from the traditional 50-50 allocation of forces.

Along with this shift to the Pacific, Payne said they are planning to do "a lot of other things."

He added, "We are talking about putting about 250 Marines down in Australia and eventually growing that to 2,500."

They will also deploy some ships to Singapore in the spring of next year, and this may involve an aircraft carrier.

"What does that mean to the Marianas? We are going to have all these forces out here. We are going to be forward deployed."

Payne asked the local community for its support.

"Tell us what you can do, help us help you to provide the things that we need," he added.

He said the military wants to make sure that whatever it does in the CNMI will benefit both the local community and the armed forces.

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