ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said he’s departing Guam with a better understanding of the troop realignment challenges that lie ahead there.
“I think the realignment is going to be challenging,” Lynn said yesterday in an interview with American Forces Press Service while en route home. “It’s a big, programmatic change and we need to do this smart; we need to take into account the concerns of the people of Guam, we need to take into account the size of Guam, the infrastructure that’s involved, and we need to work through this in a collaborative way.”
About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 family members are slated to move to Guam from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement between the United States and Japan. The same agreement also calls for a realignment of Marines to a new location on Okinawa.
Lynn traveled to Guam, a U.S. territory, for a firsthand look at the island’s facilities and to speak with government leaders and residents about the troop increase.
“The main purpose was to get an understanding on the ground rather than with just PowerPoint slides,” he said. “I think we got a very full plate in those two days.”
Guam’s residents have a range of opinions regarding the troop realignment, Lynn noted. Some are concerned about the environmental and cultural impacts, while others are very supportive and see an increased military presence as beneficial to Guam’s long-term future, he said.
The final environmental impact statement released last week addresses the possible environmental consequences of the buildup. This statement also outlines measures that will help the military and people of Guam create a sustainable future.
Next, Lynn said, a record of decision will be signed in September, after which the actual implementation of the plan will take place.
Meanwhile, “We need to work collaboratively with the government of Guam and the people of Guam to work through the issues they’ve identified,” he said.
Lynn reiterated his commitment to moving ahead respectfully, keeping Guam’s culture and resources in mind, and ensuring the buildup “leads to a better and stronger Guam in the end of this process.”
Lynn said he’s impressed by the patriotism displayed by Guam’s citizens, and their support for the military.
Lynn also traveled to Guam’s neighboring islands, Saipan and Tinian, to meet with government leaders there and to explore the potential for future cooperative efforts.
“As we do the bigger realignment in the Pacific and maintain a robust presence in the Pacific, there will be broader training needs, training needs that can’t be accomplished on the island of Guam or even in other facilities we have in the Pacific,” he explained. “So we’re looking at what kinds of expansion we might need to do and Saipan and Tinian might be part of that.”
Lynn said the prospect of future cooperative efforts was well received by government officials.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)