Head of military buildup on Guam to step down at end of year
October 6, 2010
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The retired major general heading the relocation of 8,600 Okinawa-based Marines to Guam announced Thursday he will step down at the end of the year, according to the U.S. Joint Guam Program Office.
David Bice, who served in the Marine Corps for 38 years, was appointed executive director of the joint program office in 2007 and put in charge of coordinating the military buildup on Guam. He steered the massive project through a federal environmental review that was largely completed in September.
Bice’s departure was a natural transition for the program, said Paula Conhain, spokesman for the JGPO office in Washington, D.C.
“I think it was his personal goal to get us where we are ready to execute and move forward,” Conhain said during a phone interview.
The U.S. Navy made final decisions Sept. 20 on how to complete the relocation of Marines and initial construction contracts for buildup work were signed this month.
Bice also helped coordinate $498 million in construction funding from Japan for the coming year.
“While there is still much work to do to successfully execute the Marine relocation, I am proud of our progress to date and am confident that all parties will continue to work together to achieve our shared vision for a prosperous community for the people of Guam and our military families,” Bice said in a statement Thursday.
Bice will visit Guam officials in the coming weeks to discuss the ongoing project, Conhain said.
Questions remain over whether the U.S. military will use ancient cultural lands on Guam for firing ranges and how dredging Apra Harbor for carriers might affect coral there.
Funding for Guam utilities upgrades also remains a crucial question for the buildup.
Beginning in 2011, the Guam buildup will be headed by JGPO Director Joe Ludovici, who has worked with Bice during the past three years.
Ludovici stood up the joint program office in 2006. He served in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps for 25 years, including a tour as the commanding officer of the Public Works Center in Guam, according to the Joint Guam Program Office.
Guam Sen. Judith Guthertz, chairwoman of the Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security, said the island has built a good relationship with Bice over the past three years.
Guthertz said she has not yet worked directly with Ludovici.
"Part of the challenge again is to ensure whoever handles this position understands Guam's history and the sentiments of the people of Guam toward the buildup plans," she said. "It took a long time to get Bice to understand. I am just concerned that we are going to have to do that again."