Proposal on foreign workers may hold up Guam base construction
Stars and Stripes August 12, 2009
TOKYO — A congressional proposal to limit the construction work by foreigners could cause delays in the military’s plans to make Guam a key hub in the Pacific, according to the Pentagon’s point man on the project.
The proposal, part of the 2010 defense budget before Congress, would limit foreigners to 30 percent of work hours on construction that would ramp up military presence on the island, including the move of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
The idea would also require all contract winners to solicit American workers for the project, which under the current proposals could bring more than $1 billion in construction to the island by late next year.
But the challenges of improving and building up bases to accommodate the overall expansion — an increase of nearly 40,000 people on the 212-square-mile island — will likely tap out available and skilled workers on Guam, Hawaii and other U.S.-controlled areas in the region, said David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office.
"We want U.S. workers to get the first look," Bice, a former Marine Corps major general, said Monday during a phone interview from Guam.
But by putting a cap on those jobs, "we’re limiting the ability to get work done in a most efficient manner. It could have a potential to delay the project."
The project has a 2014 deadline as part of an agreement between Japan and the United States to move the Marines from Okinawa. Japan is also paying for much of the move. Of the $10.3 billion estimated cost to move III Marine Expeditionary Force, Japan is to pay $6.09 billion.
So far, Japan has put $336 million toward the project, money meant to build up utilities for the Marines’ new home in Finegayan. Another $386 million in the U.S. budget would go toward improvements at Apra Harbor to allow amphibious boat landings and for changes at Andersen Air Force Base to accommodate Marine aviation equipment, he said.
The congressional budget also includes money toward a new Navy hospital, Bice said. All told, the island could see slightly more than $1 billion in construction spending next year, he said.
That spending also depends on approval of an environmental impact statement, a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. The statement is expected in the spring, and Bice said Monday he expects requests for proposals to go out soon after. Construction, he said, could begin on the island by late summer.