A base for the 8,000 Marines and an estimated 9,000 dependents slated to relocate to Guam from Okinawa by 2014 could be built on more than 800 acres of undeveloped land in the northern part of the Pacific island, according to an American Forces Press Service report.

The site is on Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Finegayan, the Naval Forces Marianas commander told the military-run news service Friday.

Rear Adm. Charles “Joe” Leidig, the senior U.S. military representative on Guam, made the comments to military reporters during a visit to the island by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

Pace made stops at Andersen Air Force Base and U.S. Naval Base Guam to review expansion plans and facilities ahead of the scheduled troop shift.

Guam is considered a prime strategic location offering easy access to U.S. allies and potential hot spots in the Pacific. Its status as a U.S. territory also gives military planners and operators far more leeway in conducting operations than they typically find at an overseas base, according to the press service report.

“If you start drawing circles from Guam, you can see how strategic it is in the region,” Pace was quoted in the report as saying.

About 3,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, Pace noted, Guam is two to three hours by air and two days by ship from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and other key western Pacific locations.

Leidig said the incoming Marines likely will be based on NCTMS Finegayan, adding that much of the island’s potential remains untapped.

Although Finegayan at NCTMS has been mentioned as potential location for the Marines’ transfer, no specific site has been selected and no decisions made, a U.S. Naval Base Guam official said Saturday.

Andersen features widespread open space to support future infrastructure growth, Leidig said. Naval Base Guam, with its confined deep-water harbor, ultimately will be the permanent base of five submarines.

The Navy base also is enhancing inner Apra Harbor’s capability to accommodate aircraft carriers and increasing training opportunities through added infrastructure, the report stated.

Marines and their families leaving Okinawa will require about 3,800 housing units and other facilities, Leidig said.

According to the report, the Joint Guam Military Master Plan calls for up to $15 billion in facility improvements on the island in the next 15 years. The government of Japan is expected to front most of the money as a trade-off for lowering the U.S. military’s footprint in Okinawa.

Some proposals aren’t aimed at the two military bases but instead will improve surrounding areas that affect their operations, Leidig was quoted in the report as saying. They include an expeditionary road that links military installations and eliminates traffic jams on Guam’s lone north-south thoroughfare.

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