Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Obama Seeks $50 Million for Guam Port Infrastructure

President Barack Obama, in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, requested a shift of $50 million in the next federal fiscal year budget to fund infrastructure improvements at the Port Authority of Guam facilities.

In the April 5 letter, President Obama said, "Modernization of the [Guam] port is a critical prerequisite for the military construction program supporting the realignment of US Marine Corps forces from Japan to Guam, a part of the overall United States strategy for military forces in the Pacific region."

If approved, the $50 million in US Department of Defense funds would be transferred to the US Department of Transportation to directly finance the $200 million modernization program at the Guam commercial port.

The Port Modernization Master Plan includes expansion and improvement projects considered critical to allow the port to handle a projected influx of goods when the US military begins a four-year program to transfer more than 8,000 military personnel from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The transfer, set to begin sometime this summer, could nearly double the amount of cargo moving through the small port.

Obama's letter comes following the federal government denial of $50 million in stimulus funding to support the Guam port modernization plan and following questions from Guam officials to the President regarding the federal government's level of commitment to assist the Guam government in dealing with the military build-up impacts on the island nation.

Supporters of the modernization plan believe that without the proposed improvements, the Guam commercial port could become a serious bottleneck in the military transfer and possibly create serious delays in the both the overall military build-up plan and the delivery of commercial goods to the island nation's citizens.