Camacho on military buildup: 'We have to find balance and fairness'
By Aurora Kohn
Former Gov. Felix Camacho said the military buildup must be “mutually beneficial” to the U.S. Department of Defense mission and to the people of Guam.
Speaking during the Guam Contractors Association’s monthly membership meeting on Wednesday, Camacho said Guam leaders should be sensitive and prepared to navigate issues such as the defense projects' environmental impact and the land rights of families affected by the buildup.
“We have to find balance. We need to find fairness. We need to understand what is right and I believe, that’s the role that we have to play as leaders,” the Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate said.
To achieve this balance, Camacho said, if elected, he and his running mate, Sen. Tony Ada, would “engage the admiral, the Pacific area command” and take matters up with the Pentagon.
“We will continue to collaborate and establish relationships and open lines of communication,” Camacho said.
Despite their concerns, Camacho and Ada expressed their support for the military buildup.
“The amount of money that they are bringing in and the number of personnel coming to the island will be substantial,” Camacho said. “I can see that we are going to rebound from what has happened with the shutdown of our community over the last two and a half years.”
Ada said the construction of the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz in Dededo, which has been in development for 10 to 15 years, presents a tremendous economic opportunity for Guam.
“When you look at the tax revenues, just from now until it peaks in 2028 to 2030, we’re looking at about $80 million to $100 million in tax revenues and then a steady stream after that,” Ada said.
Ada said the military buildup not only provides much-needed revenue for the government but also benefits local contractors and the general community.
The Department of Defense invests between $1.2 billion and $2 billion a year in construction projects associated with the military buildup on Guam.
Camacho and Ada also addressed the dire need to increase the pool of local workers to meet the labor requirements of the military buildup such as carpentry, masonry and ironwork.
Workers skilled in these areas of construction will be in demand for the next 10 to 15 years of the buildup, they noted.
Camacho suggested developing Guam youth’s interest in the trade industry at middle and high school levels by raising awareness that “there is a career path available in the trades and skilled labor.”
Camacho, a two-term governor who served from 2003 to 2011, said when he was in office, he worked closely with the Guam Power Authority to establish apprenticeship programs.
“If you look at the workforce in GovGuam, in the skilled areas, many of them are aging and have retired or are planning on retiring. So if they have an apprenticeship program to begin to train from within, they would then take over. That plan has been there,” he added.
Camacho said he had pushed similar programs in the Guam Water Authority and the Guam Shipyard.
Ada said it is necessary to promote awareness and guide Guam youth about opportunities in the trades.
“We have individuals who will take the career path of trade. We just got to make sure that we guide them in that direction -- to the trade that they wanted to do, be it plumbing, carpentry or ironworks,” Ada said.