Guam jobs to get military boost
By Audrey McAvoy
By Audrey McAvoy
CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawai'i — The U.S. military plans to use Guam workers and contractors wherever possible as Japan and the United States spend more than $10 billion moving 8,000 U.S. Marines and their families from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the U.S. territory over 10 years, the deputy U.S. Pacific commander said yesterday.
Even so, Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Leaf said the small labor force on the island of 170,000 people means that the military will probably have to use outsiders to build housing and other facilities for the Marines.
The relocation, designed to reduce the U.S. troop presence on densely populated Okinawa while keeping the Marines in a strategic location, will more than double the number of U.S. troops based on Guam.
There are currently 6,500 troops assigned to the island, more than half of whom are in the Navy. The move will mark the largest realignment of Japan-based U.S. troops in 50 years.
"We would like to utilize the resources on Guam first," Leaf said in an interview. "There is not enough labor currently on Guam but we want to put priority on leveraging the labor pool that is there."
Developing construction worker apprenticeship or training programs to prepare Guam's labor force would be "a pretty smart thing to do" but the military hasn't made any decisions on the issue, Leaf said.
Leaf said it would be inappropriate to favor any particular company or group of companies in awarding contracts. At the same time, however, the military intends to give maximum benefit to Guam, he said. The Pentagon will decide how contracts are awarded but details need to be worked out, he said.
The move has the potential to create a public works bonanza on Guam, where the unemployment rate hovers over 7 percent and per capita income languishes at about $22,600 — a little more than half the U.S. average of $42,000.
The arrival of the Marines and their dependents is expected to boost the island's population by some 10 percent.
Japan, which is footing close to 60 percent of the $10.3 billion relocation bill, is expected to have a significant say in how the money is spent.
The general said the military will be able to fit the Marines on land it already owns and won't need to acquire new acreage. The U.S. military controls more than a quarter of the island.
Pacific Command officials will launch a campaign to inform islanders what changes are in store for Guam when Adm. William Fallon, the Pacific commander, approves the relocation plan, Leaf said. That is expected to happen next month.
Even aside from the Marine relocation plan, the military has been investing more in Guam as it places forces closer to where they might be used.
The military has moved three nuclear-powered attack submarines to Apra Harbor since 2002. Last year, the Air Force started rotating F-15s and B-2s to Andersen Air Force Base from the U.S. mainland and Alaska.
The military has been upgrading the infrastructure at Guam's naval and air bases to accommodate the increased use.
Guam is about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawai'i and about 1,500 miles southeast of Tokyo.