Lynn Underscores Commitment to Guam’s People, Resources
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
AGANA, Guam, July 28, 2010 Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III today reiterated his commitment to respect Guam’s culture and to preserve its resources throughout an upcoming U.S. troop realignment.
“And the measure of success is whether we make … Guam better in the endeavor. I think we can succeed,” Lynn told government and community leaders during a dinner at the governor’s complex here. Lynn was on the second day of his first visit to Guam.
Lynn traveled to Guam to get a firsthand look at the island’s facilities and to speak with government leaders and residents about an increased military presence there. About 8,500 Marines and more than 9,000 family members are slated to move from Okinawa to this U.S. territory in accordance with a 2006 agreement with Japan.
The same agreement also calls for a realignment of Marines to a new location on Okinawa. The deputy secretary emphasized the need to proceed in a “collaborative way.”
The realignment of troops will result in more than double the U.S. military presence on Guam. Rather than move all them in at one time, Lynn said, the Defense Department will ensure the troop buildup is paced to match the island’s ability to accept them.
“The buildup and Guam’s infrastructure need to be in sync,” he said. “This is not a large island and this is a lot of Marines. It is a challenge.”
And, as officials proceed, they’ll need to ensure they’re respecting and preserving Chamorro culture, Lynn said, referring to Guam’s indigenous people.
Lynn acknowledged the concerns some people on Guam have raised about the troop realignment, particularly in regard to the selection of Pagat for a small-arms firing range. The location has historical and cultural significance for Guam.
A small-arms training range is vital to the Marine presence here, Lynn said, and the final environmental impact statement, released last week, identified Pagat as the preferred location for a Marine training range. The statement assessed the possible environmental consequences of an increased military presence on Guam, as well as measures that will help the military and people of Guam create a sustainable future.
Lynn pledged to continue to work with Guam’s people and government to take on issues such as the one centering on Pagat.
Lynn also reiterated the need to consider Guam’s businesses and expertise first throughout the realignment.
“That means more than construction; that means we need to build expertise in the population whether it’s engineers or environmental scientists,” he said.
This will help to create a legacy that will carry Guam into the future, Lynn said, and will make Guam “truly better for the realignment than it was before.”
Earlier in the day, Lynn met with Guam’s governor, Felix Camacho, as well as the island’s legislature, to discuss the troop buildup and related concerns. He also traveled to neighboring islands, Saipan and Tinian, to discuss the troop increase with the government leaders there.