TOKYO — Maybe they are unsung heroes. But their footprints are hard to ignore on U.S. bases in Japan and Okinawa.

Family housing. Troops’ barracks. Office buildings. Schools. If those need to be built or refurbished, Japan’s Defense Facilities Administration Agency gets it done.

The agency is in charge of providing and maintaining U.S. Forces Japan with major infrastructure for the military installations. It pays the tab for utilities on bases and paychecks of Japanese employees working for the military.

After Sept. 1, however, the agency will no longer exist.

The Ministry of Defense decided in March 2006 to dissolve the agency — composed of 3,100 employees and eight bureaus throughout the country — after two senior DFAA officials and a retired senior agency official were linked in bid rigging on public-works projects.

The bid-rigging scandal includes contracts involving the runway relocation at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and a berth upgrading project at Sasebo Naval Base.

All three officials were found guilty in July 2006, and the retired official is serving an 18-month prison term. The two senior officials were each given a suspended sentence of 18 months.

“Our agency is about to end its history because of the bid-rigging scandal,” said Iwao Kitahara, director general of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, during a recent interview in his Tokyo office. “However, it is not the end of the role which our agency has played in its 45 years of history.”

In fact, there’s a lot of work to be done, Kitahara said.

In the ongoing military realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, Kitahara said the agency plays a “go-between” role to gain consensus from local communities where new military facilities are planned to be built or additional air drills are to take place.

“Our mission is to make the agreement signed at the desk to actually happen,” he said of the May 2006 realignment pact between the U.S. and Japan.

In September, the agency’s functions will be integrated into three different internal departments under the Ministry of Defense, Kitahara said.

Every member of the DFAA is making an all-out effort so that all of the agency’s work will go on flawlessly under a new system, he said.

“Our ultimate mission is to support the presence of U.S. forces in Japan and the U.S.-Japan Security alliance.”

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