Posts Tagged ‘DEIS’

Latest update on the Guam relocation

March 6, 2010

Here’s another new article from Stars and Stripes that does a nice job of summing up very concisely the current state of affairs related to the Guam relocation.  It’s interesting that what is most often stressed about the proposed realignment plan, as in this article, is the commonly referred to “not-in-my-backyard” issue – as in, we want the security that forces like U.S. Marines provide, but we don’t want them to come too close to where we live.  Candidly, I think that most of our Asia-Pacific allies and partners would prefer for us to be closer to the potential rising threats in the region rather than farther away, but it is not popular politically for them to express this sentiment publicly.  As for the people of Guam…I think they feel like a train is coming and they are on the tracks.  In the long-term, the relocation might bring some benefits to Guam (economically, etc.), but there is so much “pain” required to get to that point (congestion on the island, changes in their accustomed way of life, and so on) that few look at it in that way.

Guam expansion central to U.S. realignment strategy in Asia

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Online Edition, Friday, March 5, 2010

RELATED STORY: Uncertainty surrounds future of U.S.-Japan military alliance

TOKYO — When it comes to regional security, many Western Pacific nations like the idea of thousands of U.S. Marines permanently stationed close by. As long as they are not too close.

As part of a complex plan to reduce the sprawling American military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa, U.S. officials approached Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia about the possibility of hosting permanent new American military bases.

All four said no.

That left tiny Guam, which for more than six decades has served as a reliable American staging point during wars and an often-forgotten port and air strip during peacetime.

Military leaders say that maintaining a stable home for U.S. troops in Asia is vital for security in a region where Islamic extremists are fighting in the Philippines and Indonesia, North Korea remains erratic and threatening, and China is seeking to expand its economic and military influence.

Even if that stable home is more than a thousand miles from Japan.

“It’s a U.S. possession that’s the closest to Asia,” said Rick Castberg, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. “I think the military sees it as invaluable.”

What’s more, the plans for stationing 8,600 Marines on Guam fit with the military’s emphasis on building long-lasting bases around the world that can provide rapid, flexible response in times of crisis. And it’s a friendly home for U.S. military assets that are not always welcome elsewhere, such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and high-flying Global Hawk surveillance drones.

“Guam is, in some ways, the poster child for that kind of notion, where you can operate as you need to, to take on new challenges flexibly,” said Derek Mitchell, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. “It is central, I think, to realignment strategy.”

Many on Guam embraced the proposed U.S. expansion and the prospect of additional federal money for the island’s crumbling infrastructure and struggling public services. The long-term military investment — an estimated $10.3 billion for the Marines’ move alone — would put money back into a part of the United States, another benefit of building inside the country, Mitchell said.

But as plans have evolved, so have concerns about how the island’s 178,000 residents will handle a huge spike in permanent population, which will be an estimated 34,000 new troops, civilian workers and dependents. The fast-paced construction schedule also could add nearly 80,000 temporary workers to the island by 2014.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sharply criticized as “inadequate” the environmental impact statement that the military prepared in advance of the Guam expansion, noting that the massive project would “exacerbate existing substandard environmental conditions.”

Among the environmental agency’s concerns: threats to 71 acres of coral reef in Guam’s main harbor and contamination risks to the island’s only freshwater aquifer.

Other critics on Guam are concerned about plans to build expanded firing ranges and increase training flights on the island.

Madeleine Bordallo, Guam’s delegate to Congress, said last month she would withdraw support for the buildup unless the Pentagon slows its construction plans. Around the same time, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who chairs the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, visited Guam and Japan and said he shared concerns about the construction schedule.

“Specifically, the U.S. government should recognize the needs and sensitivities of the people and the limitations of space on the island,” he said in a written statement after the trip. “If the United States remains committed to an active forward presence in Asia, and an increased U.S. military presence on Guam, then it must demonstrate that commitment by providing the civilian infrastructure and services needed to support an increased population on the island.”

Yet the military doesn’t seem to be backing down. In fact, it’s asking Guam to do more. The Army is now looking at Guam as one of five possible locations for its new joint high speed vessels.

“When God gives you a gift,” said Stephen Yates, a senior fellow in Asian studies for the American Foreign Policy Council, “it’s good to use it.”

More on the Guam military buildup

February 26, 2010

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Yesterday I saw a bit of news blasting the Guam DEIS from the perspective of the EPA, and today the Joint Guam Project Office (JGPO) responded that they saw the criticisms coming:

JGPO anticipated pushback on DEIS

Posted: Feb 26, 2010 7:53 AM TST Updated: Feb 26, 2010 7:53 AM TST

Guam – Responding to the USEPA’s concerns with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the military buildup, Joint Guam Program Office Spokesperson Major Neil Ruggerio says although they have worked closely with the EPA and other federal and local agencies during the development of the DEIS, they fully anticipated that formal agency comments would point out deficiencies and areas requiring revision.

The USEPA found the DEIS to be “environmentally unsatisfactory”. Ruggerio says the Department of Defense is committed to working with the EPA and other federal agencies to fund solutions for existing issues on Guam.

In reality, no matter how long the military would have taken to put together the DEIS (bear in mind that the released proposal took several years to complete), for a project of this scope there is no way that the finished (draft) product could be able to assuage the concerns of “all comers.”  Of course there are going to be problems with the DEIS and the buildup it describes – it involves a great deal of change.  Of course JGPO expected “pushback.”  What will be interesting to see is whether the controversy over the buildup in the wake of the release of the DEIS will actually succeed in materially changing the scope of the buildup project or if it effectively slows the project implementation timeline.  Construction is supposed to start this year, but the DEIS has to be approved first.  I would bet that the real impact will come from the Japanese and what they decide this May about the U.S. Marine airbase on Okinawa, not from issues like this coming from Guam.


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