Marines conduct mock raids at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam during Exercise Gauhan Shield. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work detailed plans to make Guam a hub for Marines in the Asia-Pacific region. (Lance Cpl. Jeraco Jenkins / Marine Corps)
Counter to an earlier plan to keep single Marines in Japan and send just those with dependents to Guam, single Marines will also rotate through the tiny island in the coming years, making it a major hub for the Corps’ operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Officials scrapped an earlier plan to move only Marines with dependents to Guam in order to ease the strain of putting so many people on the island, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told service members Wednesday during a question-and-answer session at Naval Base Guam.
That change to the plan is at least a one-to-one reduction in spouses, not to mention children, which eases the strain of hosting so many people on the island, he said.
Original plans estimated that 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members would be relocated from Okinawa to Guam by the end of this year, costing between $10 billion and $18 billion. But the focus on other areas in the Pacific cut the number of personnel in Guam to around 5,000, with future basing of additional forces in Australia and Hawaii instead. The cost is now estimated to cap at about $8.7 billion by 2015, according to a Defense Department news release.
Earlier this month, Pentagon officials sent Congress its official “master plan” for building up military forces on the island.
The Defense Department referred questions from Marine Corps Times about that plan to members of Congress. In turn, the spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee said that the plan is marked “for official use only” and not publicly available. Congress required the Pentagon to submit the plan in order to get funding for the buildup.
While many of the details are under wraps, Work said the island will be the “hub” of the military’s repositioning in the Asia-Pacific region. It has thousands of feet of runway at Andersen Air Force Base and enough room for more than 100 bombers and tankers. It could also support several amphibious ready groups, he said, so combined with other ARGs in the Pacific, the military will be ready to have two 90-day deployments in the Pacific.
“There [will be] ships coming in and out,” he said. “And there are going to be Marines moving in and out.”
Work said he doesn’t anticipate much of a shift of Army forces to Guam because Marines will already be at Andersen and Apra Harbor, a naval base, and he doesn’t want to “overload” the island. He also stressed that the repositioning of forces in Guam and other parts of Asia-Pacific isn’t intended to “contain” China.
“What we're trying to do is convince China to be a natural and a responsible stakeholder in a Pacific security environment that has held pretty firm for over the last 70 years,” he said.
While China is rising, the U.S. wants it to be a “great power” and a part of the global economy, he said — but the U.S. also wants that to happen peacefully.
“[This is] all about economic vitality,” he said. “...A big portion of our trade is going to come from Asia. So we want to maintain a security environment that allows free trade to go.”