Marines relocation to begin by mid-2020s, says official

HAGÅTÑA — The relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam will begin “by the end of the first half of the 2020s,” Joint Region Marianas Commander Rear Adm. Soshana Chatfield said, debunking speculations that the United States may be rethinking the $8.6 billion military buildup on island.

“Joint Region Marianas, together with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Marine Corps Force Pacific and Marine Corps Activity can assure you there has been no change in the scope or plan for the relocation of Marines to Guam,” Soshana stated in a letter to Speaker Tina Muna-Barnes, chair of the legislative committee on military buildup.

Shoshana Chatfield

“The Marine Corps has a long history of working together with the people of Guam and we want to sustain this enduring mutually supportive relationship as we establish a more robust Marine Corps presence for the security of Guam.”

Soshana gave the assurance in response to Muna-Barnes’ inquiry prompted by U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller’s remarks before a congressional committee that the troop relocation plan, “as it’s currently designed,” needed a review.

During a May 1 hearing, Neller told the Senate Appropriations Committee that sustaining Guam is a “significant bill which must be addressed and balanced across other Department of Defense priorities.”

Neller’s major concern appeared to center on how to get Guam-based Marines to where they are needed to fight.

In a back and forth with Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz during the meeting, Neller indicated he didn’t believe the planned high speed vessels planned to move the marines and their gear would work for a large force.

“The plan, as it’s currently designed, I think is worthy, possibly, of a review,” Neller said. “That is my personal and professional opinion,”

Neller suggested that doing the job would require more extensive amphibious resources and that the cost of paying for this would have to be balanced against other Department of Defense priorities.

The Marines’ relocation plan has faced numerous delays since the Record of Decision was released in September 2010.

The current plan involves the relocation of approximately 5,000 Marines, of whom about 1,700 will be permanently based on Guam and the remainder rotated every half year. According to Marine Corps Times, the Marines will begin arriving on Guam by 2024. Approximately 2,500 are expected to be on island by 2026 and the full 5,000-Marine force to be in place by 2028.

“Any change to plans to relocate Marines from Okinawa to Guam would not occur without the input of the Department of Defense, Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Force Japan and the governments of Guam and Japan,” Soshana told Muna Barnes. “It is an essential part of our mission to maintain open dialogue and ensure transparency with your office and the government of Guam.”

According to defense construction report, the military buildup on Guam entails the construction of 60 projects. Approximately $500 million worth of projects has already been completed.

“Marine Corp leaders continually reviews all its plans as situations develop and new information becomes available,” Soshana said. “We remain dedicated to the protection and preservation of the island’s natural environment and cultural resources and will maintain our responsibility to environmental and cultural l stewardship.”

On May 6, Soshana gave Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio a tour of military installations on the island, providing Guam’s top leaders an opportunity to view current and future military operations on U.S. Naval Base Guam, Andersen Air Force Base and the future Marine Corps Base.