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News Transcript

Media Availability Deputy Secretary Work in Guam

Press Operations

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work; Lieutenant Commander Courtney Hillson
Aug. 19, 2014

LT. CMDR. COURTNEY HILLSON: Good afternoon, everyone, thank you for joining us. My name is Lieutenant Commander Courtney Hillson. I'm the public affairs officer for Deputy Secretary Bob Work. I'd like to introduce him to you (inaudible) he'll first give a brief opening statement. (Inaudible) afterward if you have any follow-ups, just let me know.

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE BOB WORK: (Inaudible) I'm so excited to be here.

Q: What would you say is the purpose and the goal of your visits, specifically in regards to like the -- moving the build-up, and forward and possibly like the Guam (inaudible)?

 DEP. SEC. WORK: Well, I was really, really lucky to spend the afternoon both -- I met Congresswoman Bordallo, who met me when I got off the plane. And she went around to all of the tour with me.

And Governor Calvo joined. And we were able to have a very, very fruitful discussion on the things that are still concerning the governor and the congresswoman and how the buildup is going forward.

So I wanted to come first to get my eyes and to see what has happened in the last year. And I've just been -- I'm really, really jazzed up as you can probably tell after spending a day here and seeing everything, talking with the governor, talking with the Congresswoman Bordallo, and really, really just the best things are yet to come.

On the Guam visa waiver program, I was always a fan of that. We don't call it the visa waiver program anymore. It's -- just trying to come up with a new visa process for Guam. And when I came back from a year after being out a year, all I can tell you right now is I'm totally committed to working with my interagency partners, primarily the Department of Homeland Security, all of our partners inside the Department of Defense and we want to make sure that we move this idea forward. So we're in the process -- I'm just -- I've only been on the job for about 90 days. And so the only thing that I can promise everyone is that I'm going to be a champion for this. And I'm going to work hard to come to a solution that helps the people of Guam and the economy of Guam and the U.S. military.

Q: Mr. Work, will the firing range location change based on concerns from the local community?

DEP. SEC. WORK: Well, when I was the undersecretary, we were going to put the firing range out on Route 15. And that was tremendously, you know, politically and there were a lot of people who were very concerned about that.

We thought we had found the answer. But we think we have a better answer now. And the firing range is now going to go up on the northern part of the island, on Northern Field. That's our preferred place for that.

We believe that that is consistent with our promise on net negative. We don't need extra ground. We're going to use ground's already under U.S. government control. We think we can work with the wildlife agencies to make sure that all of the ecological problems or anything are taken care of. And we want to work closely with the governor and the legislature and the people of Guam to make sure that they are satisfied, that we can do this safely and without impacting the local culture.

So I don't anticipate any changes from here on out. I mean, there's a lot of work to be done. Our preferred place is up on Northwest Field. And coming back after a year, knowing how contentious the Pagat area was, I'm so happy we've come to a conclusion that I think most people are saying, yes, this is a way we can move forward.

Q: Are you getting a warmer reception locally this time, during your visit this time, compared to 2009 or 2012?

DEP. SEC. WORK: Well, in 2009, it was pretty contentious because the plans were so -- they weren't settled. And there were a lot of valid concerns. And I have to tell you, we listened closely to what we were hearing from the people of Guam and your political leadership. We listened carefully about Pagat. We tried to make the change there. But we think we have found an even better solution.

And I just feel like now when you start to see the momentum building, where everyone will say, hey, I can see what this is going to do for the economy of Guam. And so I wouldn't want to say that it's a warmer reception, but I think people now realize that we're really seeing momentum and we're starting to see things that will happen and how it might be good for the economy and the people of Guam as well as the military.

LT. CMDR. HILLSON: We have time for one more question.

Q: What's the other changes aside from the plan to bring more family (inaudible) -- bring the single Marine members? Any other changes in the regional plan?

DEP. SEC. WORK: One of the biggest changes -- and this is something that just happened recently -- is we were going to put Marine Corps family housing in Finegayan. Now we are looking very hard at putting all of those families on Andersen. This helps in a lot of different ways. That's about 400 acres of forest, of jungle that we will not touch. So it helps on the ecological front. It helps on the net negative pledge that we made. We think it's going to be -- we think it's going to be less expensive.

So that's one of the big changes and something that's very exciting because, again, we've listened very, very carefully to what the governor and Congresswoman Bordallo and the legislature have told us. And we've looking for ways in which we can move together to make this --


Q: -- change the number?

DEP. SEC. WORK: Well, right now, we still think about 5,000 Marines are coming. And about, say, 1,500 dependents. Those numbers are probably not exact. But they're about right around there.

So it's fewer number of Marines than when I was the undersecretary. We plan on bringing about 8,000 Marines and about 9,000 dependents. Now it's much less. So the impact on the infrastructure on Guam will be far less, which is another really, really good thing.

LT. CMDR. HILLSON: That's all the time we have.