The 36th Guam Legislature’s the Committee on Regional Affairs & the Guam Buildup hosted a series of briefings on May 10. The panels included Joint Region Marianas officials, who said that from fiscal 2021 into fiscal 2022, Naval Facilities Engineering System Command awarded 30 projects worth about $1.8 billion with another $1 billion to be awarded in the next fiscal year.

A $2.5 billion Multiple Award Construction Contract will seek to award task orders to three contractors, according to Journal files, with responses for a Request for Information due in early June. Each of the task orders awarded through the MACC will be of several million.

Capt. Steven Stasick, commanding officer of the Office in Charge of Construction for Marines Corps Base Camp Blaz; gave an update on various projects – to include the $87 million live fire training range complex – which is almost complete and the Urban Combat Training Complex at the former Andersen South military housing property in Yigo, which should be completed by October, he said.

Senators were requested to submit any questions to the Committee, but did have an opportunity to comment. Frank Blas Jr. said from the legislature’s viewpoint, “We have to strike a balance.” Sen. Mary Torres said she did not see how the buildup directly translates to benefits for the community and the “trickle-down effect.” Sen. Sabina Flores said she was concerned at the “spillover effect” of the buildup, such as the cost of living and affordable housing. “We look forward to a conversation where we’re not jeopardizing our culture and environment,” she said.

Guam civic organizations spoke on the economic benefits.

Catherine S. Castro, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce told senators that continued investment from the Department of Defense will increase revenues to the Government of Guam. Section 30 funding in September 2021 was $76.1 million, she said. In addition, Castro said no one has been better stewards of the environment than the military.

Joint Region Marianas has 9,500 uniformed personnel assigned as of 2022, with 15,000 family members and expects 15,000 uniformed personnel by 2027, with 25,000 family members.

The U.S. Air Force on Guam has seen an increase in active-duty members, rising from 1,752 in 2000 to 2,060 in 2020, according to Journal files.   

When fully deployed, a little under 2,000 U.S. Marines will be permanently stationed in Guam with about 3,200 “unit deployables” rotated in and out of Guam, according to Journal files. 

“Many veterans are in need of dire care,” Castro said – an area of improvement she said will go hand in hand with the buildup.

(See various stories on the U.S. veterans in the islands on www.mbjguam.com.)

George Chiu, vice president of Tan Holdings and president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Guam said many members had seen their businesses accomplish “a significant increase in growth, despite the pandemic” due to doing business with the U.S. military, to include indirectly.

Mary P. Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, said military arrivals are not always reflected in figures from the Guam Visitors Bureau if they arrive at Andersen Air Force Base via Patriot Express flights, which typically carry 300 passengers. At the United Services Organization centers, “They get to see individuals come in that don’t go through our ports,” Rhodes said.  

Figures showed the following from the military market, Rhodes said:

2022 (October to April)

Total room nights: 190,108

Total room revenue: $30 million

Total hotel occupancy tax: $3.3 million

 

2021

Total room nights:  491,136

Total room revenue: $78 million

Total hotel occupancy tax: 4.7 million

 

2020

Total room nights: 267,751

Total room revenue: $42.5 million

Total hotel occupancy tax: 4.7 million

 

2019:

Total room nights: 234,858

Total room revenue: $37.3 million

Total hotel occupancy tax: $4.1 million

 

Rhodes said those figures totaled 1,183,853 room nights, $187.8 million in room revenue, $20.6 million in hotel occupancy tax and $9.39 million in gross receipts tax.

While other markets were closed, Rhodes said due to Guam’s reception of the USS Roosevelt, “We became the benchmark.” She said 16 hotels are contracted to receive military, outside of any leisure travel. Money spent in Guam would additionally include a per diem for meals, Rhodes said

James A. Martinez, president of the Guam Contractors Association; said that sub-contracting equates to additional business opportunities for small businesses with “up to 23% of the total value [of a contract] required to be awarded to small businesses.” This had increased from up to 15% two years ago, he said. The skills gap between labor available and required is a challenge he said, with 10,000 to 11,000 skilled trades professionals needed at the peak of 2024 to 2025. The industry will need an additional 4,000 workers, he said. “There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for our youth coming out of high school,” he said. Only 30% of high school graduates pursue college after graduation, Martinez said.

Other speakers during the four hours of panels included Vera Topasna, executive director of the Government of Guam’s Community Defense Liaison Office; talked about the various ways GovGuam agencies are affected by the buildup – including the Port Authority of Guam, and the increase in military cargo and the Guam Historic Preservation Office. “Various agencies work with DoD,” she said. Her office tracks military investment and the National Defense Authorization Act, “which may have direct or indirect consequences for Guam,” Topasna said.

Carlotta Leon Guerrero, chief advisor for Military and Regional Affairs to the governor, linked the subject of the hearing to a wish list of desires for Compact Impact funding and more, speaking about “a dedicated funding source” for funding as a result of migration to Guam from the freely associated states in Micronesia, for citizens of those islands to receive Medicaid “in their home country,” and “screening” of citizens before their arrival in Guam. Leon Guerrero also asked for “regular procedures so the Admiral can respond quickly.”

She said the governor would like to see a “debt swap” with the federal government. The buildup was also affecting the housing inventory in Guam, Carlotta Leon Guerrero said. Due to the buildup and migration from the freely associated states, she said, “There are 10,000 people on a list waiting to get housing on Guam.”

She also said that the U.S. military could “call up an island” before it headed there to see if there were – for instance – medications that could be taken. She said the military can “use their assets so they can do more than they’re doing.” mbj