Guam – Forward Joint Guam Program Office Director John Jackson spoke to the Rotary Club of Guam Thursday about what he says are common misconceptions related to the military buildup.
JGPO Forward Director John Jackson told rotarians that JGPO recognizes that there is opposition to the military buildup and respects the opposition’s right to express their opinions. He also said they don’t question the sincerity of those opposed to the buildup, but he does believe there are some misconceptions about the buildup. “Number one we’re not shooting into the water the surface danger zones may extend over the water but we’re firing into targets that are placed in front of berms,” explained Jackson. However, the surface danger zone that extends over the water is the area where stray bullets may fly hence it’s designation as a danger zone.
Although he didn’t go into specifics because it is under litigation Jackson did speak a little bit about Pagat. “Firing range at Pagat, part of it stems upon the definition of what people call Pagat but we’re not putting any physical facilities in the vicinity of Pagat cave in the vicinity of Pagat village the site of Pagat village our firing ranges as we discuss them we call them the route 15 firing ranges because they really are along rt. 15,”
He also addressed the notion that pristine limestone forest would be destroyed as a result of the firing range. “If you look at pristine area to be destroyed again it depends upon the definition but if you look at the area you can notice there’s a racetrack in that area,” said Jackson. The JGPO director was referring to the Guam Raceway Park along the back road in Yigo. This area too will be utilized for part of the marines firing range complex.
Jackson also talked about the cultural sesitivity of the Pagat area. “Culturally sensitive, yes. This entire island is culturally sensitive there are cultural sites all over the island and again as the Department of Defense looks at culturally sensitive items we put those under the programmatic agreement,” said Jackson.
He also made it clear that there will be no mortar ranges or bombing ranges on the island of Guam and he also addressed the idea that the military owns a third of the island. “Federal government, DOD owns 27 percent of the land mass of the island. The government of Guam owns almost as much through the Chamorro land trust ancestral land trust and other entities. Private owners own about half of the island,” said Jackson. He also made note of Navy Undersecretary Robert Work’s net negative promise.
The JGPO director also spent a considerable amount of time listing the financial benefits expected from the military buildup. “Some of the government of Japan funded projects another $321 million those are pending. Why are they pending? They’re pending because the programmatic agreement has not been signed,” said Jackson.
He also said that once they get past the Programmatic Agreement roadblock it will free up about a half a billion dollars in construction projects that are already approved by congress and Japan. He pointed out that this will bring money to the companies and their employees which will in turn generate taxes for Guam. “There’s a half a billion dollars in programs waiting to go some of it will go off-island to major contractors but a lot of the sub-contractors the small businesses their employees and of course all of the companies that support them,” said Jackson. However he did admit that there are impediments to small businesses on Guam that prevent them from getting or qualifying for some contracts. For example they have to have a proven track record, the right type and amount of expertise, and bonds that may be too expensive for some small businesses to afford.
One member of the Rotary club told Jackson today that many Rotarians have invested a lot of money into the island in preparation for the buildup which is why they are anxious to get the programmatic agreement signed and get the buildup underway.