USA/Guam — Lynn Vows to Protect Guam’s Resources During Troop Realignment

MANGILAO, Guam„ July 27, 2010 — The Defense Depart­ment is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing Guam’s infra­struc­ture and resources, and will adjust the pace of incom­ing U.S. troops to match the island’s abil­i­ty to accom­mo­date them, the deputy defense sec­re­tary said here today.

“I will not hes­i­tate to make adjust­ments as the enter­prise unfolds to pro­tect the island’s infra­struc­ture, ser­vices and resources,” William J. Lynn III told an audi­ence of local offi­cials and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers while tak­ing part in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Guam’s Pres­i­den­tial Lec­ture Series.

Lynn made his first vis­it to Guam today to get a first­hand look at the island’s facil­i­ties and to speak with gov­ern­ment lead­ers and res­i­dents about the upcom­ing troop realign­ment, as well as to under­score Guam’s impor­tance to the sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty of the Asia-Pacif­ic region.

About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 fam­i­ly mem­bers are slat­ed to move to this U.S. ter­ri­to­ry 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.

“Our realign­ment of forces here is the key to main­tain­ing an effec­tive pres­ence [in the region],” Lynn explained. “We need the right mix of forces to address the increas­ing set of secu­ri­ty mis­sions across the region.”

The realign­ment of troops here will more than dou­ble the U.S. military’s pres­ence on Guam, which now stands at about 7,500 U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers and more than 8,400 fam­i­ly mem­bers. This pro­ject­ed increase has raised con­cerns among the peo­ple of Guam in regard to the envi­ron­men­tal and cul­tur­al impacts of an increased mil­i­tary pres­ence.

How­ev­er, with the release of the final envi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment last week, the Unit­ed States has reached a “mile­stone” in its efforts to assess the pos­si­ble envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences of the build-up, Lynn said. This state­ment lays out the effects of an increased mil­i­tary pres­ence and out­lines mea­sures that will help the mil­i­tary and peo­ple of Guam cre­ate a sus­tain­able future, he added.

U.S. Navy offi­cials com­piled the state­ment in coop­er­a­tion with many agen­cies across the gov­ern­ment and Guam, Lynn said, and also is based on the input of those most affect­ed — the lead­ers and res­i­dents of Guam. Dur­ing the process, offi­cials received and eval­u­at­ed more than 10,000 pub­lic com­ments, he said.

Offi­cials took a “hard look” at air qual­i­ty, water, waste water, pow­er, roads, the port and under­ly­ing socio-eco­nom­ic issues, Lynn said, and also con­duct­ed addi­tion­al stud­ies on sus­tain­abil­i­ty, nat­ur­al resources and wet­lands.

The state­ment iden­ti­fies about $1 bil­lion of fund­ing need­ed for improve­ments to Guam’s util­i­ties, port and roads, the deputy sec­re­tary said.

“We are already mak­ing good on our pledge to improve Guam’s infra­struc­ture,” Lynn not­ed. The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment will finance $740 mil­lion of infra­struc­ture projects, he explained, and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has request­ed con­gres­sion­al author­i­ty for the Defense Depart­ment to fund an upgrade to Guam’s only com­mer­cial port. “Togeth­er with match­ing funds from the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, we will be mak­ing a $100 mil­lion invest­ment in the port,” he said.

Oth­er funds will be fun­neled into Guam’s roads, and in coop­er­a­tion with the island, the nation is lay­ing the ground­work for improve­ments to util­i­ties, schools, health care, pub­lic safe­ty and oth­er needs. To do so, the nation will “draw on Guam’s exper­tise to the fullest” with new oppor­tu­ni­ties for Guam’s busi­ness­es and work force.

“Guam’s work force will be tapped into first before for­eign work­ers are brought to Guam,” Lynn vowed, not­ing that the need for their exper­tise will extend far into the future with base jobs and the pro­vi­sion of goods and ser­vices.

“A whole new econ­o­my will emerge from the trans­for­ma­tion of forces we are under­tak­ing on Guam – an econ­o­my that will spur job growth and demands for high­ly skilled labor for decades to come,” he said.

The aim also is to incor­po­rate “green tech­nol­o­gy” to meet the increased resource demands, Lynn said.

“Our col­lec­tive invest­ment in wind, solar, hydro­elec­tric and wave-gen­er­at­ed pow­er will make Guam an envi­ron­men­tal leader among Pacif­ic islands,” he pre­dict­ed.

Through­out this process, Lynn said, the Defense Depart­ment remains com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing Guam’s cul­ture and the spir­it of its com­mu­ni­ty.

“Pro­tect­ing Guam’s cul­ture for future gen­er­a­tions is some­thing we can only do in part­ner­ship with you,” he told the audi­ence.

Lynn also pledged to ensure Guam’s infra­struc­ture is pre­pared for the mil­i­tary growth.

“Guam is home to 17,000 of our fel­low U.S. cit­i­zens; we have an oblig­a­tion to ensure that the realign­ment improves, rather than detracts from their lives,” he said. “If we fol­low this prin­ci­pal, the build-up can serve as a tremen­dous cat­a­lyst for Guam’s future devel­op­ment.”

Still, there are chal­lenges to over­come, and much work remains to be done, Lynn acknowl­edged.

One of the sources of con­cern for some of Guam’s res­i­dents has cen­tered on the loca­tion of a Marine fir­ing range in Pagat, a cul­tur­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant site for Guam.

A small-arms train­ing range is vital to the realign­ment of Marines here, and the envi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment has iden­ti­fied Pagat as the pre­ferred loca­tion, Lynn said.

Still, “There are impor­tant cul­tur­al equi­ties here, and we need to pro­tect, in this case in par­tic­u­lar, an impor­tant site to the Chamor­ro cul­ture in a way that’s accept­able to the peo­ple,” he said in a media round­table today. “I think it’s still pos­si­ble to find a way to do that.”

While chal­lenges will arise, Lynn said he feels this realign­ment also offers a tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly for Guam’s res­i­dents. But “to real­ize the realignment’s poten­tial, U.S. offi­cials and the peo­ple of Guam must work side by side, every step of the way,” he said. “We must keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open and we must make deci­sions togeth­er, in full part­ner­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties who will be most affect­ed.

“This will not hap­pen overnight, but the men and women of the mil­i­tary who will make Guam their home share with their fel­low cit­i­zens of Guam, the desire to get this right.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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