I am glad to be with you today at the University of Guam.
Thank you, President Underwood.
You were a tireless advocate for Guam in Washington. It is a delight to see you back in education, where you began your career.
By helping preserve Chamorro culture here at the University and by using its insights to shape future generations, you are once again serving the people of Guam.
The University is fortunate to have you.
I am also delighted to see so many other familiar faces on this trip.
Tomorrow I will see Governor Camacho, who I have come to know and respect during our meetings in Washington, and Lieutenant Governor Cruz, who I commend for his distinguished service in the Guam Army National Guard.
I will also meet members of the legislature, who share Governor Camacho’s and my view that the realignment of forces we are undertaking is crucial to get right.
I would like to especially recognize Speaker Won Pat and Guam’s Senators for so forthrightly representing the people of Guam as we continue to plan the transformation of forces.
And of course, Congresswoman Bordallo has been deeply engaged in Washington as your representative in Congress.
Having just flown straight here, I should say also that I have new respect for the people of Guam, like Governor Camacho, who regularly travel back and forth to Washington.
It is often said that Guam is where America’s day begins. And for me, this holds special relevance.
As you know, the military begins its day famously early.
I get email from staff at 3’o’clock in the morning. No matter how early I arrive at the Pentagon, there are those who have already been at work for hours.
But now, thanks to Guam, I have never had this much of a head start before. I am finally a step ahead.
The only problem is that tonight I will head to bed before they have lunch.
Guam may be far away from Washington. But within the Department of Defense, the people of Guam are always close at hand.
Anyone working at the Pentagon today sees the incredible contribution the people of this island are making to our military.
Your sons and daughters wear the uniform of the United States of America at a higher per capita rate than nearly anywhere else. Two Pacific Islanders serve on my immediate staff.
We are grateful for their service.
Many Chamorros have also given their lives in service of their country. So today I honor all the sons of Guam who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the one on his way home today.
I would also like to salute the Gold Star Families of Guam, for the sacrifice they have made for our security. These families, like those who came before them in years past, are enduring so much to help preserve our freedom.
Indeed, the U.S. military and the people of Guam share a history unlike anyone else—a history of sacrifice that stretches for more than a century.
It is hard when traveling in this part of the world not to reflect on the young soliders, sailors, airman, and marines who fought so valiantly in this region, and especially on this island, more than a half-century ago.
This is also a time to remember Guam’s families who suffered and endured the hardships of war.
So today I join you in celebrating the sixty-sixth occasion of Guam’s liberation—a day when Chamorros were among the many Marines who stormed the beaches to liberate Guam and its people.
Today, we are talking about the Marines returning to Guam, but in a different role. Three generations after liberating Guam, the 3rd Marine Amphibious Corps is preparing to make its home here.
I well understand that the proposed military realignment is a major event for Guam. I have come from Washington to see for myself the situation on the island.
Today, I want to offer you my perspective on the realignment plan—both the challenges we face, and the opportunities it presents. And I want to hear your concerns and ideas.
I am speaking as someone who spends a significant amount of time on this issue in two capacities. I serve as chair of our Department’s Guam Oversight Council, which oversees all the Defense Department’s activities related to the move of Marines from Okinawa.
I also am the chair of the Economic Adjustment Committee, whose membership consists of my counterparts from across the federal government.
The Departments of the Interior, Transportation, Energy, Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency are each contributing to the effort, as is the government of Japan and many agencies in Guam.
Together, I am confident we have the resources to achieve a successful realignment.
The realignment of our forces in the Pacific is motivated by important economic and political developments unfolding in Asia today.
The sheer logic of geography guarantees Asia a central role in world affairs.
Asia and the Pacific encompass over half the earth’s surface. 43 countries and 60% of the world’s population live here. Reflecting its importance, five of the seven bilateral defense agreements the U.S. has are with nations in Asia.
Without question, the rise of Asia in economic and military terms is the most significant change in the strategic environment for the United States.
Far from being a cause for concern, the growing role of Asia in world affairs is an opportunity for the United States.
We are “a Pacific nation” whose security interests and economic wellbeing are integrally tied to this part of the world.
As President Obama has said, “Asia and the United States are not separated by this great ocean, we are bound by it.”
And the President himself is a pacific islander.
Currently, Washington is focused on the enormous effort ongoing in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as we support our troops in two wars, the Department of Defense has not lost sight of the longer-term future, and the challenges it will bring.
Guam is a central part of that future.
Guam has hosted our men and women in uniform for decades.
This contribution is especially critical today.
As home to our most forward-deployed sovereign bases in the Pacific, Guam is centrally positioned in a region whose global importance is growing.
From bases here, our forces can ensure the security of our allies, quickly respond to disaster and humanitarian needs, safeguard the sea lanes that are so vital to the world economy, and address any military provocation that may occur.
All of these missions help serve U.S. interests in a vibrant and secure Pacific region. Sustaining our presence here will help realize the brighter, more prosperous future that is in reach.
But the Pacific is also a vast place. We must commit our forces carefully to ensure they are effective across the widest possible range. And Guam is the linchpin in our force-structure strategy. Our realignment of forces here is the key to maintaining an effective presence.
We need the right mix of forces to address the increasing set of security missions across the region.
U.S. posture in Asia is shifting. Our forces are becoming more geographically dispersed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable. The realignment on Guam is part of this shift.
Reconfiguring our presence here on the island is a long-term process.
We must first start by preparing for the influx of workers who will themselves build the infrastructure to support the relocating Marines. Then we must carefully manage the construction effort itself.
Finally, we need to position Guam for a long, successful future once the build-up is completed.
As Governor Camacho has said, there is an opportunity here to leave an inheritance for future generations. An inheritance not only of greater security and prosperity for Asia as whole, but of enduring economic opportunity for the people of Guam.
The guiding principle of the realignment is this:
Guam is home to 170,000 of our fellow U.S. citizens. We have an obligation to that ensure the realignment improves rather than detracts from their lives.
If we follow this principle, the build-up can serve as a tremendous catalyst for Guam’s future development. The added investment in Guam’s infrastructure can lead to greater demand for local services. And the highly-skilled labor that the realignment will generate, can help the isle’s economy transform itself for the future.
In short, we will add greater capacity to the isle’s infrastructure. And we are doing so with a “One Guam” approach that knits together our bases and the communities they are apart of.
Moreover, this future will be a sustainable one.
We look forward to working with the people of Guam as we invest in green technology to help meet our increased resource demands.
Our collective investment in wind, solar, hydroelectric and wave-generated power will make Guam an environmental leader among Pacific islands. Together, we can make “One Guam, Green Guam,” a reality.
Our vision is broad. It will take years to build. And there will be challenges to overcome. But when we are finished, we will have laid the cornerstone for a new era of economic and environmental wellbeing for the people of Guam.
I want to talk about some of the specifics of our effort to identify and prioritize Guam’s infrastructure needs.
With the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, we have reached a milestone in our effort to assess the probable environmental consequences of the build-up and the long-term measures that must be taken to ensure a sustainable future for both the military and the people of Guam.
The process of compiling the statement was led by the Department of the Navy and involved many agencies across the government and in Guam.
It also demonstrated our commitment to transparency, to careful planning, and to close coordination with local authorities.
The President’s environmental advisor, Nancy Sutley, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, were both here last week to share the results of the study with you.
Let me emphasize a few points.
Without question, the environmental impact statement is thorough.
We took a hard look at air quality, water, waste water, power, roads, the port, and underlying socio-economic issues. To be sure we fully understood all the issues involved, we conducted additional studies on sustainability, natural resources, and wetlands.
I would like to also say that the statement is based on the input of those who will be most affected—the leaders and residents of Guam. As part of this commitment of inclusion, we received and carefully evaluated more than 10,000 public comments.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement is an important reference document as we develop a roadmap for the way ahead. It identifies approximately $1 billion of funding for making key improvements to Guam’s utilities, port and roads.
But I want to go beyond what the environmental impact statement says to what we are planning to do with it. As the senior defense official overseeing the build-up, let me make three important commitments to you today.
First, the Department of Defense is committed to respecting and preserving the Chamorro culture and the spirit of the Guam community.
Protecting Guam’s culture for future generations is something we can only do in partnership with you. So I commit our Department to working with you to respect and preserve Chamorro culture.
Second, we will not exceed the capacity of Guam’s infrastructure as we construct new military facilities.
The Environmental Impact Statements makes clear that we have many ways of controlling the pace of this endeavor. I will not hesitate to make adjustments as the enterprise unfolds to protect the island’s infrastructure, services, and resources. We will do this by partnering with federal and Guam agencies to monitor key indicators, such as the amount of cargo flowing through the port and wastewater flows.
We are already making good on our pledge to improve Guam’s infrastructure.
The Japanese government has agreed to finance $740 million of infrastructure projects. In addition, President Obama has requested Congressional authority for the Department of Defense to fund an upgrade the port of Guam. Together with matching funds from the Department of Agriculture, we will be making a $100 million dollar investment in the port.
We are also funding vital improvements to roads on Guam. In close partnership with Governor Camacho, Guam agencies, and the Legislature, we are laying the groundwork for improvements to Guam utilities, schools, health care, public safety and other needs.
This will not happen overnight. But the men and woman of the military who will make Guam their home share with their fellow citizens of Guam the desire to get this right.
Finally, the third commitment we are making to you is that we will draw on Guam’s expertise to its fullest.
The buildup presents new opportunities for Guam’s business and workforce.
Guam’s workforce will be tapped into first, before a single foreign worker is brought to Guam. And we will also look to local businesses to play a key role.
This commitment to draw on Guam’s expertise extends for years into the future.
The need for Guam’s workforce will persist long after construction is complete, through jobs on bases and through businesses that provide goods and services to our military personnel and their dependents.
A whole new economy will emerge from the transformation of forces we are undertaking on Guam—an economy that will spur job growth and demand for professionals and highly-skilled labor for decades to come.
And the benefit to Guam’s economy is not only to the labor market. With population growth comes a larger tax base.
The additional personnel who will make their home here will also provide a stable, secure stream of tax revenue to help fund Guam’s needs long into the future.
Ultimately, the buildup and the jobs it creates will contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Guam’s treasury. This will allow Guam to invest in its own infrastructure as never before.
So as you can see, the realignment of forces is filled with opportunity for the people of Guam.
But we have a long way to go, and a lot of work ahead, to manage its impacts to the community and to ensure the people of Guam fully benefit.
As we move forward, we also must not lose sight of the reasons why we are undertaking this realignment.
The strategic environment is changing.
A new era is at hand in the Pacific.
The countries in this region are ascendant both economically and politically. Yet their continued rise, and the prosperity it will bring, is predicated upon a secure and stable environment.
The United States has helped keep the Pacific at peace for more than half a century. And our continued engagement here is necessary to ensure peace is maintained in the decades to come.
But for our forces to be effective, they must be properly structured and appropriately located for the missions they have to undertake. Guam has an absolutely crucial role to play in this regard.
The realignment will not be easy.
As the Environmental Impact Statement makes clear, it holds many challenges, for Guam and for the military. But it is also an enormous opportunity, especially for the U.S. citizens who make Guam their home.
To realize the realignment’s potential, U.S. officials and the people of Guam must work side-by-side, every step of the way.
We must keep the lines of communication open. And we must take decisions together, in full partnership with the communities who will be most affected.
If done effectively, our work will help safeguard our fellow citizens, ensure the long term health of Guam, and bring stability to the entire Pacific region.
These are things we all have a stake in.