BY THE time you read this, we should have the official word on the new shape and numbers of the Guam ‘realignment,’ formerly known as the Guam military buildup. This follows lengthy talks between the U.S. and Japan aimed at revising their 1996 agreement.
This information always arrives slowly and that’s been a fact for years, leaving most of us civilians and – surprise – much of the military in the dark as to what is going on.
The lower buildup numbers and policy changes have been dribbling out through the Japanese and various other media for weeks and have remained quite consistent. Per Bloomberg News at this point, 4,700 Marines are destined for transfer from Okinawa to Guam, with about 60 percent of them ‘rotational.’
Of course, Congress may still reject any plan to move Marines to Guam or anywhere else until their higher-ups present a long-sought ‘laydown’ plan for their relocation and/or until the Defense Department submits the independent assessment of its strategic posture in the Asia-Pacific region demanded by Sens. Levin, McCain and Webb.
Oh, and yes, Washington and Congress are still fighting over every dime of expenditure, even if it’s for defense.
Meanwhile, the delays and uncertainty are driving everything from local Guam politics to journalistic desperation to be first on this story.
Journalists and others in hot pursuit of a fresh story have focused on the recent Tinian visit by Japanese defense officials, perhaps thinking that Tinian might be getting something that would otherwise go to Guam. Sorry folks, but Tinian has been on my mind as part of this picture for a long time. In January 2010, for example, I recommended that First Marine Aircraft Wing aviation command be relocated to Tinian from Futenma, Okinawa. Later that year, the final buildup record of decision endorsed my support for “development and construction of facilities and infrastructure to support training and operations on Guam and Tinian.” Similarly, the final environmental impact statement for the Mariana Islands Range Complex includes support for a number of field training exercises spread out over Guam, Rota and Tinian. I believe that when it comes to an increased military presence, what benefits Tinian, Rota or the entire CNMI in this area, also benefits Guam. And this is the way it should be. The economic spillover effects will be tremendous for both jurisdictions.
On another subject, more than a month ago I introduced my Bill 437 in an effort to figure out how to fix our dilapidated schools with the available but limited $60 million in ARRA federal funds before Washington claws that cash back next fall. Add an additional $70 million in funding sources that my bill would authorize the governor to identify and use. I’ve seen 437 through the legislative committee and public hearing process, during which it has received useful input for amendments by way of the AGO and GEDA and support from Gov. Calvo’s Education Task Force. I knew that figuring out how to stretch the money to fix our schools was going to be a popular issue, and sure enough, we now have another bill in the hopper which proposes to do the same thing while taking a somewhat different route to the goal.
I would be glad to accept amendments to my bill in addition to those it has already received. I view this other measure as a compliment in the spirit of “the sincerest form of flattery,” as long as the final result is getting the public schools in Guam fixed. The more ideas the better.
Sen. Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz[at]gmail.com.