Journal Staff

Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson confirmed at a news briefing on March 16 that the lease from the Department of Defense by the Government of Guam of 112.875 acres at Eagles Field on Rte. 15 in Mangilao is ready for the signature of Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero.

Speaking at the headquarters of Joint Region Marianas in Guam, he talked about the timing that had affected the lease and the conditions that were shared with GovGuam to make the lease possible at no cost.

In an interview with the Journal on Jan. 26, 2022, Nicholson had warned that the Eagle’s Field location was of interest as a location for missile defense of Guam.

Late in 2021 a Missile Defense Agency team came to Guam to look at Guam locations and were on-island in January 2022 also. “They’re looking at … about 20 or so different sites,” Nicholson told the paper at the time.  The intent was to build on Department of Defense land, and in different locations, he said. The system will cover defense of the whole island against different types of missile threats, he said with a “360-degree coverage.”

On March 16, he said that the Missile Defense Agency “redesigned the whole system to make that work” to accommodate a hospital at Eagles Field.

He also told the Journal in 2022, “We’re looking to target some very special capabilities in that new facility — especially if the DoD is part of where it goes — the lease — we’re looking to target some capabilities because it’s less expensive to build things in from the start …”

At the Eagle’s Field location there is a military weather radar which has a significant blockage from a high-rise. Nicholson said on March 16 that will remain.

Also included will be an aviation pad that can accommodate what the Marine Corp. uses — an MV or CV 22 tilt rotor Osprey aircraft with a great range than the helicopters used. “These aircraft can’t land on a regular helicopter pad …,” he said in 2022. That will serve military and residential populations from offshore or for example in the Northern reaches of the NMI if they were to be transported to a new hospital.

In addition, the hospital will have a laboratory with capabilities currently unavailable in Guam.

Military patients will be accepted at the new hospital.

Nicholson said in 2022, “Not every service you need is at the Naval Hospital. … There are specialties we don’t have at the Naval Hospital. We send active-duty members and their families to the local hospitals today for particular specialties that we don’t have.”  “I think many people don’t realize that we, the military benefit from the hospitals that are here.” Civilian patients are also taken to Naval Hospital Guam, particularly from Southern Guam, he said. “We all work together.”

On March 16 Nicholson said on average per year 4,000 military members or their family members are referred from military medical facilities to island medical facilities for specialty care or services unavailable at Naval Hospital Guam or military medical clinics. Island facilities are reimbursed by TriCare military insurance for the cost. specialties at the hospital, which include a hyperbaric chamber, in-patient physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy, dialysis, a pediatric intensive care unit, radiology, and cardiac catheterization. “All of those are things that benefit the community here on Guam as well,” he said. This was relayed to the Government of Guam earlier this year, he said.

Nicholson said the lease is to be signed between DoD and GovGuam in 30 days from March 15. This is the period – as he wrote to Leon Guerrero on March 15, after “the Navy met its commitment to complete lease technical drafting and negotiations by March 1” and after “the U.S. Congress was notified 14 days ago on March 1 of the proposed lease as required by federal law.”

The admiral said the lease also stipulates that the hospital has major disaster capability, since other hospital on Guam – singly and together do not have bed space for a major event.

“All of these things come together to provide a world-class facility here on Guam that currently doesn’t exist,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Defense has already identified $1.5 billion in its budget for the infrastructure for missile defense of Guam (See story in this News Update), according to a release from the department. The budget awaits approval by the U.S. Congress.

Both the Office of Sen. Therese M. Terlaje, speaker of the 37th Guam Legislature and chairperson for the Committee on Health, Land, Justice and Culture; and the Office of Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero release statements on the hospital on March 15. Several Guam senators weighed in on the issue during the day, the evening and March 16 with their own releases.

Terlaje also clarified on March 15 that that Bill 23-37 (COR) referred to the committee chaired by Terlaje by Senator Joe S. San Agustin is tentatively set for April 19.

“To reiterate, the Land Bank bill was referred to Senator Joe San Agustin’s committee for fiscal review since January 2023. It was re-referred by Senator Joe San Agustin at 1:27 p.m. [March 15]to Speaker Therese Terlaje’s committee. Note that the Office of Finance and Budget has not clearly certified funds are sufficient to cover this appropriation. The prior Bill No. 345-36 was delivered to the legislature in November 2022, one month prior to the ending of the term and there [were]no funds attached to it.”  The bill is intended to address funding for compensation for landowners.

Leon Guerrero also addressed the issue of the hospital and made related statements in her State of the Island address on March 15. See the story in the News Update.

The issue of land and return of land to original landowners is a complicated one. Various governors of Guam have received land from the U.S. military as it has been deemed excess to requirements and returned them in some cases to original landowners, where possible.

The Journal and Guam Business Magazine – the Journal’s sister publication – have reported for decades on those returns and compensation issues due to where the land is situated.

Nicholson said on March 16 that with the exception of land that is already in the transfer process, “There’s no more excess land.” The Navy had met its net negative commitments and he said, “Of the land we have about 20% is set aside for development purposes.” About 5% of the land the military has can’t be developed. The military uses about 27% of the land mass on Guam, he said – less than it previously held.

As U.S. military interests in acquiring land in Guam changed, the concept of “net negative” began as part of DoD policy, emphasized through a 2011 letter from Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work to then Gov. Edward B. Calvo, meaning that for any land acquired for the Guam realignment, a similar portion would be returned to the Government of Guam, ideally with less land in Navy hands.

The previous interview with Nicholson can be found in the Journal of Feb. 7, 2022 or at  The admiral covered several topics that remain of high interest to Journal readers. mbj