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GAO says cost of Guam move will exceed estimate

By DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 9, 2009

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Relocating some 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam will cost far more than what the Department of Defense estimated, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The report released July 2 examined the DOD’s estimated budget for realigning its global posture and recommended the department get a better handle on how much the projects will cost.

The DOD "understates the total costs associated with restructuring DOD’s global posture, because it does not report the total cost of each initiative, assumptions about host nation support, the full share of U.S. obligations, or sustainment costs," the report stated.

The report estimated the U.S. share to relocate several Marine commands to Guam to be at least $7.5 billion, almost double the original estimate of $4 billion. The total cost is currently estimated at $10.7 billion, with Japan contributing $6.09 billion.

However, the GAO said the estimate does not include other related costs, such as the cost to move military units to Guam from places other than Okinawa; the development of training ranges and other facilities on nearby islands; the cost for beefing up other DOD agencies on Guam to support the additional military personnel and dependents; and the $6.1 billion Guam has requested to make improvements to its infrastructure to support the ensuing population boom.

Marines on Okinawa directed all queries concerning the report to the Joint Guam Program Office. Marine Capt. Neil Ruggiero, a spokesman for the JGPO, said Tuesday he had not seen the GAO report and could not comment on it.

It is estimated the move of the Marines and other units to Guam will increase the island’s population 14 percent. The move is expected to be completed in 2014.

The GAO report does not address the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, which would mandate 70 percent of the construction force hired for the Guam project be U.S citizens at Hawaii wages, about 2 ½ times the prevailing wage on Guam.

The report concluded that the Defense Department "lacks a reliable process" for estimating how much the projects will cost and recommended the DOD issue better guidelines for determining "a credible cost estimate."