Slower Military Buildup Said To Be Good For Guam

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‘More realistic pace’ to help communities, businesses adjust

By Dance Aoki

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 30, 2013) – A slower military buildup could promote a balance between different industries, according to an Adelup official -- and that's good for local business owners and the community.

The military buildup was supposed to be completed around next year, but funding and budget concerns in Washington, D.C., have pushed it back, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Military officials now expect to transfer thousands of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2020 as part of a larger realignment of U.S. forces.

President Barack Obama Friday signed the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, allocating almost $495 million in spending for construction projects on Guam in fiscal 2014.

The defense bill's allocation for the island is the second-highest military construction funding for Guam since fiscal 2010, when $700 million was approved.

But the bill explicitly forbids any money appropriated through the bill from being used for the relocation of Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam or Hawaii.

The buildup still is moving forward, in spite of skepticism that has developed over the years.

"Folks are less apt to believe a buildup will happen," said Mark Calvo, director of the Guam Military Buildup Office.

"We'll believe it when we see it" is often a comment Calvo hears from the local business community.

Calvo said the buildup is progressing, but at a more realistic pace.

The funding for Guam's military construction projects from this year's defense spending bill was good news for local construction companies, Calvo said, even though the economic impact won't be immediate.

[PIR editor’s note: It was reported late last week that the governor of Okinawa has signed off "on the long-awaited relocation of a U.S. military base, a major step toward allowing the U.S. to move forward with plans to consolidate its troops on the southern Japanese islands and move some to Guam."]

"The immediate impact may not be seen for nine to 12 months, but as projects are completed, the reality and magnitude of that money will start to be paid out to the construction companies," Calvo said.

Flexibility

The buildup director said balancing an economy based on defense projects and the growing tourism industry allows for businesses to be flexible.

"With that flexibility, we'll have better businesses," Calvo said. "Slower growth will help everybody apply all parts of the business community more evenly so we don't experience a Department of Defense boom (for) businesses that only rely on defense activity."

The balance between tourism and defense will encourage business owners to attract local consumers, not just tourists and military service members, Calvo said.

"(Residents) still enjoy making reservations for 40 on Mother's Day at a hotel rather than walking down there and you can't get a seat because there are too many tourists or a ship just came in," Calvo said.

The buildup director said the rapid growth from previous buildup plans wouldn't have had a positive impact on the island.

"The boom would have been a huge economic impact," Calvo said. "Folks were concerned about our infrastructure and the social impact."

Clarity needed

The Air Force and Navy bases have seen their capacity increase over the years, Calvo said.

The most recent NDAA also eased previous restrictions from 2012 and 2013 to use government of Japan funds for buildup projects, Calvo added.

David Leddy, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, said the business community thinks this year's defense spending bill is great news for Guam.

"Moving forward, things have to be done right," Leddy said. "What's needed is more clarity. I've always said that the people will support the buildup; we just wanna know what's gonna happen."

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