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Navy finalizes plans for U.S. military buildup on Guam


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Stars and Stripes:

The U.S. Navy firmed up plans Tuesday for a military buildup on Guam that could lead to a historic shift in military forces in the Pacific region.

The Navy’s record of decision finalizes where facilities will be built for 8,600 Marines scheduled to move to the island territory from Okinawa by 2014 and how to pace the massive construction effort, according to a brief released by the Department of Defense Joint Guam Program Office.

But the Navy delayed decisions on controversial plans to build military training ranges on Guam ancestral land and to dredge coral in Guam’s main harbor for an aircraft carrier berth, according to the brief.

The full report on the buildup was not available immediately after it was signed by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackie Pfannenstiel early Tuesday. The joint program office said it would post the full document online by Wednesday.

The start of realignment construction will depend on funding, upcoming decisions from a new military-civilian panel, and further reviews of ancestral land and harbor dredging proposals, said Gen. David Bice, executive director of the joint program office.

“We don’t anticipate any construction activity until the first of next year,” Bice said in a Tuesday morning phone interview with Stars and Stripes from his office on Guam.

Utilities funding from the Japanese government is critical to future construction, he said.

The United States is in talks with Japan and the Japanese Bank of International Cooperation over the country’s $740 million contribution for wastewater, power and water upgrades on Guam.

Japan agreed in 2006 to fund the upgrades as part of the shift of Marines from Okinawa.

Improvements to Guam’s underdeveloped utilities are needed before construction crews and servicemembers can begin arriving on the island.

A piece of the Japan funding will pay to tap wells on military land and connect the supplies to Guam public water utilities, Bice said.

“We need to have the funding for the water,” he said. “We need that pretty quick, by next year.”

Before the end of the year, the government of Guam, the U.S. military and federal agencies will also form a new coordinating council, which will help guide construction and solve concerns over the influx of workers on the island, he said.snip

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