Clinton hears Guam's pleas for more funding for buildup
October 29, 2010
ANDERSEN AIR BASE, Guam — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a rare visit Friday to Guam, where island lawmakers called for more federal funding and pressed their concerns over a U.S. military buildup.
Guam Gov. Felix Camacho said about $2 billion in additional federal funding is needed for schools, health care and roads to support the buildup. He also said island opposition to giving up its land is a sticking point similar to the divisive relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa. Clinton met briefly in private with Camacho, Lt. Gov. Mike Cruz and Senate Speaker Judi Won Pat.
She also spoke to U.S. servicemembers at Andersen Air Base during a refueling stopover on the way to a spate of visits in Asia. During a speech in a crowded Air Force hangar, the secretary said Guam is “170,000 loyal Americans who care deeply about our country and are part of our extended defense” and praised U.S. military humanitarian missions in the Pacific.
The planned military buildup — which calls for 8,600 Marines and families to be transferred from Okinawa — is poised to turn Guam into the Pacific hub of the Marine Corps by 2014. The move has long been a top concern for island residents, but those worries have always been overshadowed by the Futenma relocation plan, which has strained U.S.-Japan relations.
“Many of the land issues, many economic issues, many of the socioeconomic impacts that are happening are very similar [to Okinawa],” Camacho told reporters after meeting with Clinton. “As you have contentious issues there, we have the same issues here.”
He said plans to put a Marine Corps firing range on an archaeological site that contains remnants of the indigenous Chamorro culture and dredge coral from Guam’s main harbor to make way for nuclear aircraft carriers, are unpopular on the island.
The military has temporarily put off both.
Meanwhile, the territorial leaders asked Clinton to support more funding to upgrade Guam’s infrastructure to support thousands of servicemembers, family members and workers who will move to the island over the next four years.
The money would go to improve the island’s only hospital as well as expand schools and build roads, Cruz said.
“The needs of Guam outside the [military] fence line are great,” Cruz said.
The total cost of building military facilities is estimated at $10.3 billion, a figure that does not include the civilian infrastructure funding requested by Guam, according to a 2006 agreement.
The territory received $100 million over the past two months from the Department of Agriculture and Department of Defense for upgrades to the island’s main port facilities at Apra Harbor. Cruz said the island is depending on more grant funding.
Clinton is the eighth cabinet member to visit Guam in the past eight years, and the first high-level U.S. politician to visit the Air Force base in nearly two years. She left the island Friday afternoon for Vietnam, where she will be a guest speaker at an East Asia summit.