GAO: More oversight needed for Guam move
April 12, 2009
TOKYO — If top-level leadership doesn’t take a more active role in coordinating the massive military buildup on Guam, the Pentagon will miss its 2014 goal of increasing its presence on the tiny island, according to an audit by Congress’ accountability agency.
While the military, island leaders and other government agencies have been working together on the project, the massive effects of the buildup on the small island call for stronger, more coordinated leadership from the top, said the report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.
The federal office tasked with coordinating the effort — the Interagency Group on Insular Areas — has no power to direct money or resources toward the plan, which calls for bringing thousands more servicemembers and their families to the island.
"Only high-level leadership from the Secretary of Defense can marshal the resources ... and only high-level federal officials from these agencies can affect possible policy and budget decisions that may be required to better assist the communities," the report said.
The report said the Pentagon should take a larger role in directing the project, a recommendation the accountability office also made in June 2008. In both reports, the Pentagon concurred with the recommendation, and last week’s report pointed out that military and local leaders were working together on the project.
Yet the report declared even the Pentagon has its limits. Leaders there cannot force the spending needed from other federal agencies to make the project work, the report said.
U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to move some 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam. At the same time, the Pentagon has other expansion plans for Guam, including adding an Army air defense unit, boosting the Air Force presence and increasing Navy capabilities so aircraft carriers can visit regularly for three-week periods.
The project is estimated at $13 billion and still has a completion goal of 2014. Much depends on upcoming budget talks and on a required environmental impact statement, which is still being studied.
The report included a laundry list of improvements needed to support the arrival of the troops, including new roads, more electricity and better sewage and water systems. Guam has requested $6.1 billion from Congress to pay for those improvements, the report said.
The audit, from January to March, was based on performances by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs; the Navy’s Joint Guam Program Office; the Federal Regional Council, Region IX; and the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment.