Chatfield: troop buildup is on, relocation to start by mid-2020s
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 Admiral 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.
"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.”
The Marines' relocation plan has faced numerous delays since the Record of Decision was released in September 2010.
Riflemen with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, the “China Marines,” rush toward a firing position during live-fire training at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, March 12, 2019. Photo by Lance Cpl. Harrison C. Rakhshani/Marine Corp
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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 2,500w 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.”