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The Navy communications base at the northern end of Guam will be the new headquarters for 8,000 U.S. Marines headed for the island in coming years, according to the retired general in charge of directing the military expansion.

The base — Naval and Communications Station Guam — will eventually be home for much of the housing, administration and operations buildings for the III Marine Expeditionary Force, scheduled to move from Okinawa starting in 2012, according to retired Marine Maj. Gen. David Bice.

“We would expect the first elements could arrive in 2012,” said Bice, the executive director of the Joint Project Office. “The goal is to have the full operational ability in 2014.”

Bice was on the island last week to meet with local leaders and to narrow down a list of “preferred alternative” sites for the future homes, schools, training areas and other facilities needed for the nearly 40,000 new military personnel and family members planned for Guam.

The overall plan, still awaiting budget approval from Congress, includes the Marines from Okinawa as well as expanded Army and Navy units on the island.

Army officials also were on Guam last week to look for a future home for an air defense station, Bice said during a telephone interview.

It’s still uncertain whether the military can complete the total expansion within its existing footprint on the island, Bice said. The Marines’ training ground will likely be on “Anderson South” a part of Andersen Air Force Base on the northern end of Guam.

But other needs could fall outside current fence lines, he said.

“We’re still evaluating what, if any, additional functions that might not necessarily fit on DOD properties,” Bice said. “It’s kind of like a puzzle.”

For example, the military may need additional land to create more ranges, which require a buffer zone between the firing area and civilian property.

Military officials are also working to determine larger training sites throughout the Marianas, Bice said. Training areas on the nearby islands will support the Marines on Guam, but will also be training sites for troops from Okinawa, Alaska, Hawaii and other countries, Bice said.

Bice’s office will offer a draft master plan in March, followed by a working-level plan next summer.

The goal is to have engineering plans firm by February 2009, the beginning of budget planning for fiscal year 2010, he said.

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