PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
MILITARY BUILDUP IS GOOD FOR GUAM
By Joe Murphy
HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 7) - I have no axe to grind. I'm retired. I don't think having 7,000 Marines on the island would add a nickel to my paycheck. Still, I live here and the issue is one of the most important the people of Guam will face.
Like most people on Guam, I heard the news about the shifting of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force to this island. I politely applauded, recognizing that not everyone on Guam would be so enthusiastic.
Me? I'm such a capitalist (in my mind) that I told my wife that we would be smart to rush out and buy a house or two that we could rent to Marines, at least the officers. We would have been even smarter if we would have bought those houses a few weeks ago.
I have always liked and admired the Marines, having served with them at Kaneohe in Hawaii during the late stages of World War II. In fact, my older brother, Bill, was a Marine. Once I visited Red Beach in Guadacanal, just to see where he participated in the invasion of those islands.
Given all this I couldn't believe my ears when I caught some of the radio talk shows and listened to activists heap nasty things about the idea. I was actually stunned, because our elected leaders are cheering the idea of bringing more military to the island. Gov. Felix Camacho said he is happy to see the Marine division that helped liberate the island 60 years ago return to Guam.
It is hard to believe there would be any opposition to an increased military presence here, because over the last 10 to 15 years, Guam has suffered economically. Our schools are in disarray. There are times it appears that our only civilian hospital will be forced to close down. We haven't been able to close the Ordot dump. Our roads are horrible. Our civil servants need pay raises. We lack adequate police protection.
The list goes on and on -- and yet there are Guam citizens who would stand in the way of economic development.
The Guam Chamber of Commerce say that the relocation of Marines to Guam from Okinawa could bring as much a $42 million annually in income tax alone, to say nothing of increased business in the stores and construction.
What is the truth behind all the wild and exaggerated claims? Most of what we say now is pure speculation. There has to be planning and cooperation between military leaders and GovGuam leaders. That process hasn't even started. There are a thousand things we are unaware of, including what kind of family support system these Marines will need.
The Consolidated Commission on Utilities sees no immediate problems. It could take anywhere from two to seven years for the Marines to complete the transfer from Okinawa, and during this time span the commission expects to make significant progress to get water lines down and to plan for a sewer utility upgrade.
It certainly is a strong case for the federal government to work closely with the military over these utilities.
Some of the activists complain that a larger military presence would discourage things like commonwealth or independence. I don't see it that way at all. Having a strong economy is key to any thought of independence. Perhaps, at a later time, Guam may consider long-term leases for the military footprint here, assuring a strong economy.
I had to laugh, a little, over a letter to the editor from a guy who suggested that the Guam Legislature carefully "review all sides before committing the island to additional burdens." That sounds nice. I would like to see the Guam Legislature get involved in this planned shift of the Marines, but everybody should be aware that legislative approval is not needed for any military activity on the island.
The shift of Marines may cause problems. But these Marines are disciplined and you had better believe that the military will upgrade Shore Patrol in Tumon and other places.
Transportation should get better. Our nightclubs should get better. So should our restaurants and movie theaters. It all should trigger an advancement in the social scene on Guam.
This is a new era, and we've got to move forward. We live in a modern, technologically advanced time. It is silly to sit and wait for the carabao carts to arrive.
November 7, 2005
Joe Murphy is a former editor of the Pacific Daily News.
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