BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff

The latest military construction workload projections predict a peak in fiscal 2027.
Photo by Maureen N. Maratita

Attendees at the Guam Industry Forum — whether making their first visit to Guam or a longtime member of the business community — heard reinforcement that the next seven years will bring from $1.2 billion to $2 billion in military construction.

Speaking on the first day of the three-day forum on Nov. 14 at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort, Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas; said, “Guam and the region have enormous potential,” and referred to the other islands of Micronesia as “significant and strategic outposts.”

Nicholson spoke of the work in hand and future work. “There’s a tremendous amount of construction underway, and there’s more to come,” he said.

Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyu chain in Japan, is home to more than 18,000 Marines.

Ayumi Sakaguchi, technical and estimate team leader for the Guam Relocation Project Office, USFJ Cooperation Division, Bureau of Policies for Regional Society, Ministry of Defense, Japan; spoke of the Government of Japan’s expectations for the military realignment to relocate U.S. Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam. 

“The Government of Japan has great expectations for a steady progress of the project as a means of strengthening the deterrence of the U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region and alleviating the impact on the local communities in Okinawa,” she said.

Japan committed funding for the realignment of forces to Guam, which Sakaguchi addressed.

“In compliance with the international agreement between Japan and the United States, the Japanese Government is committed to making cash contributions up to the amount of $2.8 billion to the United States in fiscal year 2008 dollars to cover part of the expenditures for the facilities and infrastructure development for the relocation of Marine Corps personnel from Okinawa to Guam. Such fund contribution was started in 2009 and a total of about $3.15 billion in nominal value has been provided by fiscal year 2022. Thus, about 90% of the upper-limit amount has so far been provided,” she said.

Sakaguchi also addressed the pace of construction and potential delays.

“In preparation for the planned start of military relocation in 2024, facilities development activities on Guam, including the construction work to be funded by Japan, will accelerate in the coming years,” she said. Recognizing delays caused by geopolitical factors, supply chain challenges and inflation, she said, “In order to cope with those changes, there is a growing need for well-coordinated cooperation not only between the governments of Japan and the United States, but among all parties concerned including the government of Guam, contractors, suppliers and businesses.”

Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero recognized the benefit to Guam of the coming surge in military construction, but also recognized challenges and sounded a note of caution.

“I … think the increase in construction activity will increase revenue for our island,” she said. U.S. military and contracting community residents are moving into a limited inventory of dwellings. “Housing is a big issue we’ve started to address,” she said. In addition, she said, “I ask you to respect our culture, … our people, our land and our waters. I have no reason to believe that’s not going to be done.”

The first panel of the day covered the military construction outlook for Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Micronesia.

Panelists were William Boudra, director, Guam Program Management office, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific, and acting director of the newly formed Joint Posture Management office, which has 28 personnel; Capt. Robert Stiles, commanding officer of the Officer in Charge of Construction, Marine Corps Marianas and Cmdr. Alan Eichelman, operations officer of Naval Facilities Engineering and Systems Command Marianas, all of whom answered questions from the audience.

Stiles gave an overview of ongoing construction in Guam and the region, which includes Marine Corps Camp Blaz, where he said, “We have 31 projects going on for $2.2 billion.”

He recognized the need for labor. “There are opportunities for early involvement in partnerships with training institutions. We know right now we don’t have the work force capacity to do this,” Stiles said. “There are clause in your contracts that talk about … apprenticeships.”

There will a be a focus on work in the islands of Micronesia in 2023.

Eichelman said those areas present environmental and munition concerns. “Palau and the FSM are governed by a different set of rules (from Guam and the NMI),” he said.

Boudra said there would be a consolidation of those projects in MAC contracts. “The dollar values are still being assessed,” he said.

Many speakers recognized the challenges that come with a ramp-up of construction. Guam currently has about 4,000 H-2B foreign workers, Leon Guerrero said.

Other news included the planning of several projects at Polaris Point, which will host a submarine maintenance facility and its own pier, and be fully active by 2025, according to Journal files. The Tinian Divert Airfield should also see a further Request for Proposals next year, with the gas pipeline still to be built.

While the military aims for MAC contracts — which Boudra said invest time up front with contractors and are “faster to award,” there are alternatives. “There are certain projects that lend themselves to single source solicitation and small business set asides,” he said.

As to supply chain issues, Stiles said, “Everything is on a case-by-case basis.” Contractors should “communicate early,” he said.

Stiles also addressed issues with security clearances on military properties. “I’m aware of those,” he said. “Site access permitting, we’re working hard to break down those barriers and find some solutions.”

The forum was hosted by the Guam Post of the American Society of Engineers and drew about 350 participants from the contracting community, and federal and local officials. mbj