Feds want Guam to foot the bill for TopOFF 4 exercise
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 26, 2007
EXPENSES for the TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise slated in October is likely to reach about $10 million and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hints that the government of Guam might have to foot the bill, Sen. Frank Blas Jr., R-Barrigada, said yesterday.
"But where will GovGuam pull the money?" Blas asked, noting that Guam received only a $2.2 million grant from DHS for homeland security management this year.
"Whatever amount that we take out of the grant to pay for the exercise would mean less money that we can use for the actual purpose of the grant," Blas said in a long-distance phone interview.
Blas, a former homeland security advisor, and his successor Dennis Santo Tomas, are in Washington., D.C. meeting with DHS officials to discuss the TopOff 4 Exercise, which will be held on Guam from Oct. 15 to 24.
TOPOFF 4 is the nation's premier terrorism preparedness training that will involve more than 15,000 participants representing federal, state, territorial, local entities and international observers.
Among the incidental expenses for the exercise are personnel cost, security, props, power, transportation, lodging and food.
"Initially, they said they would take care of these. Now they are saying they won't be able to take care of these," Blas said. "Unfortunately since then, DHS has pulled back saying they had procurement problems on their end."
When he was the governor's homeland security advisor, Blas met with his federal counterparts in November last year to work on a memorandum of understanding pertaining to the federal government's financial responsibility.
"Although there has been continued discussion over the last two and a half years as to who would be financially responsible for what, DHS has yet to come to any decision on their end as to what they will be able to pay for," Blas said.
Blas's and Santo Tomas's meeting with DHS will continue over the next two days.
"Guam has continually pushed this issue and with the exercise just three months away, we would like for DHS to resolve this issue so that it does not continue to be a major point of contention," he added.
TOPOFF 4 participants will engage in various activities as part of a robust, full-scale simulated response to a multi-faceted threat. The exercise will address policy and strategic issues that mobilize prevention and response systems, require participants to make difficult decisions, carry out essential functions, and challenge their ability to maintain a common operating picture during an incident of national significance.
The exercise is based on National Planning Scenario 11, which begins with terrorists, who have been planning attacks in Oregon, Arizona, and Guam, successfully bringing in radioactive material into the United States.