Thursday, June 3, 2010

Talk of Delay in US Military Transfer to Guam Grows

Just days after Japanese media reported that US and Japanese government officials were considering delaying the move of US troops from Okinawa to Guam, the head of Guam's power and water utilities said Tuesday that plan is just "too big, too fast," and a delay in the plan's timetable is "inevitable."

Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Guam Consolidated Commission on Utilities – which oversees the island's water and power utilities – told that a lack of money and time has made a delay in the military transfer a "recognition of reality."

The four-year plan originally called for the relocation of about 8,000 Marines, their dependents and facilities to start this year and run through 2014.

"Anyone that understands anything about this process understands there is no way to do this all in four years, even if you had all the money tomorrow. Delaying, in my opinion, is welcome and not surprising," Sanchez said.

Sanchez' comments come in response to anonymously sourced Japanese media report that claimed sources "close to Japanese-US ties" said that the two countries were considering a three to five year delay in the Okinawa-to-Guam transfer.

While US officials did not confirm the Japanese media report, which was also picked up by the Associated Press, Guam's Acting Governor Mike Cruz agreed that a delay would give the island more time to prepare for the military buildup.

Officials from the Port Authority of Guam said they would continue to operate under the original transfer plan timeline.

"The Port Authority of Guam continues to move forward with our plans to modernize our island's only commercial seaport in order to meet the needs of our island's organic growth and the planned military buildup," Vivian C. Leon, acting general manager of the port authority told

The port authority is still trying to get $50 million in federal government financing to begin upgrades on the port – a plan that will cost more than $200 million.

Utility boss Sanchez said that upgrades to the island's utility infrastructure to handle the transfer could cost upward of $1.75 billion, with no viable sources of financing currently identified.

"It has become increasingly apparent to everyone that the original plan for Guam, to have the entire move done in 2014, is very tall order and probably unrealistic," Sanchez told "But you can't have conversations about delaying the move until you confirm you are going to make the move."

On Friday, representatives of the Japanese and US governments jointly confirmed that the plan to move the US military off of Okinawa – originally proposed in 2006 – would definitely move forward, though no timeframe was offered.