|Page 2 of 3 < >|
On Guam, planned Marine base raises anger, infrastructure concerns
"It is not possible and it is not fair that the island bear the cost," Woo said.
At the peak of construction, the buildup would increase Guam's population by 79,000 people, or about 45 percent. The EPA said the military plans, so far, to pay for public services for about 23,000 of the new arrivals, mostly Marines and their dependents who are relocating from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Ceded to the United States by Spain in 1898, Guam is a U.S. territory. Its residents are American citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections and have no voting representative in Congress.
The Marine Corps is sensing a populist backlash on Guam, which is three times the size of the District of Columbia and more than 6,000 miles west of Los Angeles.
"I see a rising level of concern about how we are going to manage this," Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, the Hawaii-based commander of Marine forces in the Pacific, said in a telephone interview. "I think it is becoming clearer every day that they need outside assistance."
The White House said Obama included $750 million in his budget to address the civilian impact of the relocation and has asked Congress for $1 billion next year, but Guam officials say they have received no assurances from the federal government that the money is headed their way.
No input in decision
Guam was not consulted in the decision to move 8,000 Marines -- about half those based in Okinawa -- to the island. The $13 billion move was negotiated in 2006 between the Bush administration and a previous Japanese government, with Japan paying about $6 billion of the non-civilian cost, as a way of reducing the large U.S. military footprint in Okinawa.
But in the past year, with new leadership in Tokyo, the Japanese role in the move has become complicated. Anti-military sentiment is growing in Okinawa; Japan's new leaders have yet to decide if they will allow a Marine air station to remain anywhere in the country. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has expressed irritation with Japan, even as the Pentagon presses ahead with its plan to shift the Marines to Guam by 2014.
The government of Guam and most of its residents initially welcomed the buildup. It was viewed as good for business, and the military enjoys deep respect here. Many families have members serving in the armed forces; among the 50 states and four territories, this island regularly ranks first in recruiting success. Guam's killed-in-action rate is about four times as high as on the mainland.
Guam is the only American soil with a sizable population to have been occupied by a foreign military power. During World War II, the Japanese held the island for 2 1/2 brutal years, building concentration camps and forcing the indigenous Chamorro people to provide slave labor and sex. Beheadings were common.
Led by the Marines, American forces liberated the island in 1944, and people here say they still feel a debt to the United States. To repay it, they proudly call their island the "tip of the spear" for projecting U.S. military power in the Far East. Guam already has Navy and Air Force bases that can handle many of the most potent weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Nuclear-powered attack submarines, F-22 fighter jets and B-2 stealth bombers frequent the island, which will soon be protected by its own anti-missile system.
"We don't mind being the tip of spear, but we don't want to get the shaft," said Simon A. Sanchez II, chairman of Guam's commission on public utilities. "We have been asking for help from Day One, but we have not got any meaningful appropriations."
'Not being listened to'
The governor of Guam, Felix Camacho, asked the military last month to slow down the deployment of Marines until sufficient federal money arrives. But as a territory, and without a vote in Congress, the island has negligible lobbying power and no legal means of halting the buildup.