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US Navy decision on carrier expected next year

Written by: Staff

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam, Aug 25 (Reuters) The top US Navy official said today a decision on the placement of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, with about 5,000 personnel, was expected in April or May.

Speaking to Reuters during a two-day tour of US military facilities on Guam, Navy Secretary Donald Winter said the Pacific island was in the running for the carrier along with Hawaii and two west coast locations, San Diego and Bremerton.

''We have not excluded any area at this point in time,'' he said.

Winter did not identify the carrier but media reports have said it is the USS Carl Vinson, which is now being overhauled and refuelled by Northrop Grumman Corp.

The US Navy now has two carriers in Bremerton, two in San Diego and one in Yokosuka, Japan. It previously announced that another nuclear-powered carrier, the USS George Washington, will use Yokosuka as its home port from 2008.

Besides 8,000 US Marines due to move from the Japanese island of Okinawa, Guam will also see a larger role for Andersen Air Force Base, which will host unmanned Global Hawk surveillance planes and regional training facilities.

''The overall military presence is going to increase here significantly,'' said Winter, appointed to the post in January.

''The lay down of forces in the Pacific is clearly one of the activities I'm going to have to spend a great deal of time on.'' Preparation for the transfer of the US Marines is due to begin in 2008 and will bring an estimated 15 billion dollars into Guam's economy, partially in funds from Japan.

Winter said the condition of military facilities on the island was mixed.

''We will do a proper assessment of all the facilities' infrastructure in terms of its ability to support the number of people moving to Guam,'' he said.

Reuters KR RS1533

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