Military Build Up in Guam Guam, a U. S. Territory/Protectorate, is a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There are approximately 200,000 people living on the island, which is made up of about 37% Chamorro (indigenous people of Guam), 26% Filipino, 11% other Pacific Islander, and the remaining 26% are Caucasian and Asian. Currently, the U. S. Military occupies a sizable portion of land, which is approximately 30% of Guam’s prime property. Now, the military is increasing its presence on the island, because Japan wishes to reduce the current US presence in their country.
This transfer of military personnel would increase the local population by as much as 25%. Many of the local people fear negative impacts of the military buildup, such as loss of precious land, destruction to their culture, increased crime rates, increased strain to their ailing infrastructure, and the loss of identity. The military buildup in Guam is a 12 billion dollar effort of the United States and Japan Governments to relocate almost half the U. S. Marines currently stationed in Okinawa. This means that approximately 8,600 Marines of the 18,000 currently stationed in Okinawa, along with numerous dependents and contractors.
The international agreement between the U. S. and Japan provides funding, of which Japan, will pay 3 billion of the 12 billion dollar budget. The budget includes 470 million for infrastructure, such as power, water, sewer, roads and port operations. Most of Japan’s money will be spent on construction for housing on military installations. The United States Government has identified land surrounding what’s now the Naval Communications Station to be the location for the Marines and their families. The international agreement states the relocation will commence in 2014.
The construction phase is planned to start in October 2010. The military has started this phase earlier than expected, road construction, expansion of the mini-base in Radio Barrigada, and construction at the Naval Base referred to as NCTS. There is no doubt that this massive relocation effort will have a negative impact on the environment. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a study mandated by the National Environmental Protection Act of 1968 (NEPA). The draft study has been completed and is 11,000 pages in volume, which is the largest EIS in history.
The draft was reviewed from November 2009 until February 2010 by the Pentagon and other agencies of interest. Around 8000 comments made by Guam’s local government and the general public were submitted with the draft and is being reviewed prior to the U. S. Government making any responses to the report. The EIS is expected the last week of July 2010. The Secretary of the Navy makes decisions on the recommendations of the final EIS and issues a “ROD”, record of decision, which permits contracts to be signed for the construction and subsequent relocation of the Marines.
This record of decision is expected by the last week of September in order to use money appropriated for fiscal year 2010. The draft EIS says the Navy intends to build a wharf to port a nuclear powered air craft carrier of 63 days per year. To do this, the Navy’s plan calls for the destruction of 71 acres of live coral inside the harbor. The plan also calls for the acquisition of almost 2,000 acres for military housing and firing ranges in addition to their current land holdings. The Navy has refused to rule out the use of Eminent Domain.
Eminent Domain is an exercise of the power of government or quasi-government agencies (such as airport authorities, highway commissions, community development agencies, and utility companies, military entities) to take private property for public use. The military expects the agreement and cooperation from Guam’s local government and land owners. However, these limited public lands have already been designated for other purposes such as homesteading for the “Chamorro” people of Guam. The non-voting delegate of Guam to the U. S.
Congress, Madelliene Bordallo – Government of Guam, and the local legislature have proposed alternatives which would satisfy the military goals without destruction of any coral or acquisition of any land. They have insisted that the buildup be a win-win situation with the local community benefiting from the buildup and not having two different living conditions on Guam, where they have a higher quality of life inside military fences and a much lower quality of life outside. This is certainly the case and will be exacerbated should the buildup occur.
As it stands the education of military dependents has been segregated from the local population, who are born US Citizens, and the local population is not accord the same standard of education. They have also taken a position that several long standing Federal Guam issues should be advanced or resolved prior to the buildup. One such issue is the war reparations from the harsh occupation by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The people of Guam are the only people who were occupied by the enemy during the war and have not received any compensation from the United States Government.
The Japanese and Filipino’s have received compensation for the concentration camps in the Philipines, but Guamanians (aka Chamorros), were murdered and tortured and were never given the same considerations. In addition to unresolved political issues, another reason for not moving forward with the buildup is the civilian infrastructure, as it is today. The island’s infrastructure is not capable of supporting this buildup, let alone Guam’s current resident population. During the construction phase there will be an additional 79,000 people on top of the current 200,000.
That includes 18,000 foreign construction workers, along with an additional 24,000 vehicles on Guam’s already crowded roads and that does not include military vehicles. Furthermore, the only civilian hospital is already strapped for beds, with patients often placed in halls, also caused by the Federal Government’s Compact Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, who have flooded Guam for jobs, medical care, and welfare benefits. There is only one child psychologist on island.
The military families of these Marines coming back from four (4) tour zones shy away from seeing mental health therapists due to the stigma that it may harm their careers. The people of Guam are very patriotic. They have proven their patriotism and loyalty to the U. S. even throughout their hardships during World War II and despite the land takings by the U. S. after the war. An estimated 54 Guamanians were killed in Vietnam, which is the highest per capita casualty over anywhere in the United States. Also thirty-three men and women have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, thus far.
The initial support has been eroding since the draft EIS was released to the public last November. The full impact, especially to the environment, and local infrastructure have been recognized. The Marines need a welcoming society when they arrive. The U. S. needs to wake up and correct the deteriorating situation by not condemning land and providing for the local infrastructure. Education, health and utilities are certainly major concerns. One local Guam legislative representative recognized that the buildup is too much too fast. They propose “stretching out” the relocation to eight years instead of four.
The Pentagon has just announced its adoption of her proposal, which is supported by the local government of Guam. They are calling it “Adaptive Execution. ” That means they will pace the relocation to fit the infrastructure. Guam’s beauty is in its people and its land. Both are being overwhelmed at analarming speed, with little consideration. It’s like being swallowed by a TSUNAMI! The U. S. needs to consider the plight of the Chamorro people and tackle unresolved issues, before they continue with their efforts in order for the build up to be a success.