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Guam Gov. Calvo pushes for permanent U.S. Marine presence

  • AP
    A Philippine Marine

The U.S. should station more Marines on Guam permanently instead of rotating them through the territory in the Western Pacific, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo said.

"A permanent presence is better and we are pushing for more of that," Calvo, a Republican, said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s Washington office.

As part of President Barack Obama’s plans to realign U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, the Pentagon is studying a proposal to rotate about 4,500 to 4,700 Marines and their families through Guam instead of stationing them on the island.

The Pentagon proposal to put a smaller force in Guam would amend a 2006 agreement with Japan that would have moved as many as 8,600 Marines from their current base in Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The Obama administration may send the remaining Japan- based Marines on rotations through Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity about the private discussions.

If U.S. troops are stationed in Guam their "income taxes will stay with the government of Guam" and could be used to "pay for some of our infrastructure and services," Calvo said. The tax funds won’t be available if the Marines are on short- term deployments, he said.

"Is there really savings" in rotating units every six months "as opposed to stationing them with their families for two to three years?" said Calvo, who was in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association. He said he would meet with White House officials and lawmakers on the base issue.

Guam already hosts U.S. Air Force and Navy bases where the Pentagon deploys F-22 jet fighters made by Lockheed Martin Corp., B-52 bombers, Global Hawk Block-30 model surveillance drones from Northrop Grumman Corp., and Los Angeles-class attack submarines made by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and General Dynamics Corp.

Accommodating 8,600 Marines on Guam would cost the U.S. about $21.1 billion for improvements such as building roads and improving ports, water supplies and wastewater treatment facilities, the Government Accountability Office estimated in a June 2011 report. Some U.S. lawmakers have objected to the cost and asked the Pentagon to study alternatives.

In May, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, joined Senators John McCain of Arizona, the panel’s senior Republican, and Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the personnel subcommittee, in calling for reducing the planned Marine Corps expansion on Guam.

Instead, the lawmakers proposed rotating combat units based elsewhere and examining the feasibility of moving Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa to Kadena Air Base, which is also on the Japanese island, while avoiding building a replacement facility. Local officials have complained about noise, pollution and safety issues at Futenma.

In passing the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2012 budget, Congress blocked funding for the relocation of Marines to Guam until the Defense Department provided a master plan. The Pentagon had to consider "alternatives that may provide the needed Marine forward presence at much less expense," McCain said in a Senate speech in September.

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