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The transfer of base operations from the Air Force to the Navy on Guam began a new phase this week as the military broke ground on a $19 million project, according to military officials.

The project will transform the former high school on Nimitz Hill into a headquarters for the newly formed Joint Region Marianas and should be completed next year, according to Capt. Paul Fuligni, who commands the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas.

The construction also marks the beginning of legally switching the day-to-day operations of Andersen Air Force Base — from housing to paving roads to mowing grass — from the Air Force’s books to the Navy’s.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Fuligni said Thursday during a phone interview from Guam. "But we know what we have to do."

Under the joint region command, 49 various base services at Andersen will shift under the oversight of the Navy. That means transferring $5.5 billion in property, about 700 Air Force workers and a $200 million operating budget from Andersen to the new joint region command, Fuligni said.

While workers will transfer from the Air Force to the Navy, their work space, bosses and military chain of command should remain the same, Fuligni said. But they will receive Navy paychecks, work with Navy databases and forms, and follow Navy policies, he said.

The joint region is required by law as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005.

The deadline for full implementation is Oct. 1.

To meet that deadline, the Navy has hired contract personnel to help switch paperwork, property titles and databases between the two systems, Fuligni said. The contracts that define supplemental work at Andersen — such as custodians, maintenance and gate guards — also must be rewritten, he said.

The overall goal of joint basing is to save money, though it will likely take time before those savings emerge, Fuligni said.

For Guam, the effort also means the joint region command will oversee base services for the 8,000 U.S. Marines expected to move from Okinawa in coming years, he said.

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