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Contractors hoping to take part in the $10 billion U.S. military buildup on Guam got a chance last week to hear Department of Defense plans and to ask questions.

More than 1,000 attended the forum, as Defense Department speakers outlined the plans to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and addressed a number of other initiatives. About 400 in attendance were from Guam, while the rest were from Hawaii, U.S. mainland, Japan and other nations, said Capt. Robert Lee, acting director of the Joint Guam Program Office Forward.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Bice, the program’s executive director, said the number of active-duty personnel and family members will increase 171 percent to 38,000.

Fourteen speakers from local government gave attendees an overview of the island, told them about the state of the island’s infrastructure — an ongoing concern particularly because the buildup will mean a 25 percent increase in the island’s population — and reviewed tax regulations and licensing requirements. Speakers from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Internal Revenue Service also addressed the group.

Most intriguing to contractors was the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific execution plan presented by Capt. Louis Cariello, operations officer.

Historically, Guam’s construction capacity has been about $600 million per year. Beginning in 2010, the buildup will require about $2 billion of work per year in order to meet a 2014 target date for the Marine move.

“How to increase (Guam’s construction) capacity in a very short time is our biggest challenge,” Cariello said.

Construction industry officials have estimated that as many as 15,000 additional workers will be needed. Under the Naval Facilities Engineering plan, a contract would be awarded to house, feed, provide health care and transport foreign workers brought to Guam, at the expense of the prime contractors employing the workers.

Mark Mamczarz, vice president of accounting and finance of Black Construction Corp. on Guam, wondered if the arrangement would subsidize foreign workers at the expense of local and U.S. workers.

That is not the Navy’s intention, Cariello emphasized. Another option under consideration to reduce labor needs is to “execute labor services off island and ship the finished products in modular form, potentially, into Guam,” he said.

The plan is continually evolving, Cariello said, and one purpose of the forum was to gather input from industry.

“The message I wanted everyone to leave with was that they will continue to have opportunities to shape how we do this,” he said.

One source of uncertainty in the process is the unprecedented fact that a foreign government, Japan, is providing more than $6 billion for the Marine relocation. Thirteen observers from the Japanese government were present at the forum, as was Iva Hosaka, a consultant for three Japanese construction firms.

While policy issues are being resolved elsewhere, Hosaka inquired about the use of the American measurement system — inches and feet versus the metric system — in building specifications and what local taxation and licensing laws would apply to Japanese companies working solely on buildup projects.

“I think … the parameters of what will constitute a level playing field, allowing both U.S. and Japan companies to compete, have not reached the stage where they can be released,” Hosaka said. “To my clients, I am going to strongly recommend that international partnering is the only answer.”

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