GUAM – The military buildup in Guam and associated projects will probably cost at least $23.9 billion over the next 10 years, according to a Government Accountability Office report that broadens cost studies from previous accounting.

The GAO report, which expands on a study released a month ago that cited the buildup costs at $17.4 billion, broadens the accounting beyond just projects supporting the transfer of Marines to Guam. It includes spending on an Air Force regional training center, the Army National Guard, a Navy nuclear carrier berth, development of the Guam Strike global hub for Air Force surveillance, reconnaissance and strike capabilities, and other items. The GAO report covers a snapshot of the buildup plans, which are a work in progress and may change.

Department of Defense construction projects, the single costliest item, will total at least $7.486 billion while “additional Marine Corps requirements” will run to $7.1 billion, according to the GAO report, which was concluded this month. Direct expenses of the Japanese government will total $2.8 billion and loans will reach $3.29 billion, the report said. Other spending by the Government of Guam through non-military federal agency grants will total $3.179 billion, it said.

The investments are meant to pay for the transfer of at least 8,600 U.S. Marines and their dependants and support staff from Okinawa to Guam and other buildup items in coming years as part of a plan to realign the posture of U.S. military forces throughout East Asia. A high level committee of U.S. and Japanese foreign and defense ministers on June 21 set a deadline of the “earliest possible date after 2014” for key elements of the buildup.

The DoD “also plans to move other military forces and equipment to Guam on different schedules in implementing a new strategic approach in the Pacific as part of its worldwide Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy,” the GAO said. “These latter initiatives involve each of the military services and the Army National Guard working concurrently to complete infrastructure projects to support Guam-based U.S. forces and their dependants. If the initiatives are implemented as planned, the Guam-based DOD population would grow from about 15,000 in 2007 to about 39,000 by 2020.”

Of the $7.486 billion in construction costs, $4.2 billion will cover the Marine relocation to Guam while another $1.9 billion will pay for a training range in the Northern Marianas, the GAO said. The Pacific Air Force Regional Training Center and Guam Strike will cost $847 million while $291 million will go to the Navy Transient Nuclear Aircraft Carrier Berth, $191 million will cover the Defense Access Roads Program and $57 million will pay for Army National Guard facilities. The report said the costs of the proposed Air and Missile Defense Task Force are “to be determined.”

The GAO report, dated June 27 and addressed to the Senate’s Subcommittee on Military Construction, expands on an earlier GAO study that estimated the cost at more than $17.4 billion. The GAO, though, said the cost estimates are still not complete.

“The military buildup on Guam is likely to cost about $7.5 billion in military construction funding from fiscal years 2009 through 2016, according to the latest estimates by DOD,” the GAO report said. “However, DOD has yet to fully identify some costs associated with the buildup. For example, DOD has not developed cost estimates for the air and missile defense task force that may be placed on Guam. In addition, construction for future facilities for the Air Force Guam Strike initiative is expected to occur over a 16-year period, which extends beyond the current costs that the Air Force has estimated through fiscal year 2015.”

The so-called 2+2 meeting on June 21 in Washington between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Japan Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Japan Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto also “confirmed their commitment to ensuring the funding necessary for the steady implementation of the relocation,” in a joint statement.

The U.S. government is also still analyzing force composition to remain on Okinawa, according to the statement, suggesting that the number of 8,600 Marines and their 9,000 dependants may change. One option raised in pre-decisional documents obtained by GuamBuildupNews.com was an increase in fighting forces, which could boost the number of troops and lower the number of dependants.

 

For queries regarding this or other stories, email the editors at adam@guambuildupnews.com or sharla@guambuildupnews.com.

 

Image used in this article courtesy Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net