Guam Military Buildup May Be Completed By 2020

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Navy commander recommends accelerated funding for shift

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 7, 2013) – The commander of the Navy's Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel Locklear, yesterday encouraged Congress to accelerate funding for the realignment of forces in the Asia Pacific region, including providing money to move about 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and Hawaii.

Based on current planning estimates, Locklear said, the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam may be completed by 2020. The relocation of forces to Hawaii has a 2026 completion target, he said.

He testified during a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday on "The Posture of the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Strategic Command."

The new estimate for the relocation of 5,000 Marines to Guam reflects a six-year delay from the original goal of 2014. The relocation plan has met delays, in part because of questions over U.S. funding availability and Guam's ability to handle a sudden influx of military-buildup-related construction projects given the island's limited infrastructure, Pacific Daily News files state.

Mark Calvo, director of the Guam Military Buildup Office under the governor's office, said Locklear's estimated 2020 completion date for the military buildup on Guam has a "silver lining."

Before Locklear's statement, it wasn't clear when the buildup would happen after the earlier goal of 2014 was pushed back, Calvo said.

Under the revised buildup plan, Calvo said, about 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents would be relocated to Guam.

Reaffirmation

Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo said Locklear reaffirmed the Obama administration's support for, and focus on, the rebalance of U.S. forces toward the Asia-Pacific region.

"Adm. Locklear said he was hopeful the buildup would remain on track and noted in his statement that it may be completed by 2020. This is only a rough estimate of when the realignment on Guam will occur. However, his statement provides greater certainty in the future of the buildup and is consistent with previous discussions on the topic," Bordallo said.

"It is critical to prioritize investments in the realignments in the Pacific, given our agreement with the government of Japan, as well as the uncertainty and volatility of the region," Bordallo said.

Under the revised buildup, Japan is committed to giving a $3.1 billion cash contribution, Calvo said. The rest of the funding for the Guam portion of the realignment, more than $5 billion, would need U.S. congressional appropriation.

On Guam, more than $900 million worth of military construction projects for fiscal 2013 and 2014 also await congressional appropriation, a Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas list shows.

Locklear Tuesday urged Congress to support the military's plans to focus on the Asia-Pacific region, where he said concerns have arisen over China and North Korea's military muscle-flexing and the history of violent extremist activities in places such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India.

"After a dozen years supporting wars in the Middle East, (the U.S. Pacific Command's) permanently assigned forces are resetting to focus on the Indo-Asia-Pacific," Locklear testified.

Locklear said Chinese military operations in particular have been "expanding in size, complexity and geographic location." Locklear said the Chinese Navy last summer "conducted its largest-ever exercise outside the first island chain and into the Western Pacific."

"Chinese maritime intelligence collection operations increased in 2012 as well; with historic ... missions into the Indian Ocean and within the U.S. exclusive economic zones off of Guam and Hawaii," Locklear said.

Sequestration

Locklear's recommendation for funding support comes as the Defense Department is dealing with automatic spending cuts, called sequestration, which went into effect Friday.

As a result of sequestration, and the lack of congressional appropriation, the Defense Department's spending levels are set back to 2012 levels, Defense Department documents state.

Locklear emphasized the need to focus on positioning rapid response forces in the Western Pacific, in part because of what he called the "tyranny of distance."

As an example, a carrier strike group takes three weeks to transit from the West Coast to the Philippines, and it takes 15 hours to get there in a C-17 aircraft, he said.

"The U.S. requires a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable posture that allows persistent presence and, if needed, power projection," Locklear said. "As many of you who have frequently visited Asia know, the tyranny of distance imposed by the size of both the Pacific and Indian Oceans and intervening land masses requires the United States to operate forward in order to achieve rapid response."

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