Saturday, January 26, 2008

Task Force Outlook on Troop Expansion

Civilian/Military Task Force presents outlook on troop expansion
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Friday, January 25, 2008

During the Civilian/Military Task Force's briefing for the 29th Guam Legislature today two major points were made clear: first that Guam needs money for the buildup of troops locally, and secondly that the island simply needs more information on the Pentagon's plans. It was made evident during the presentation that Guam must do its best to obtain the financial assistance necessary to prepare for the dramatic increase in population that will result from the military buildup.

Governor Felix Camacho says this is something he's been working on and something he will continue to push for. "We as a territory need to make our case," the chief executive announced. "We've already missed the opportunity for appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009, we need to target Fiscal Year 2010 if we're going to get any types of appropriations."

To help Guam get the money it needs the Task Force has been working on a needs assessment to be presented to the General Accountability Office (the investigative arm of Congress) that will be her by the 31st of the month. However, to properly produce an accurate needs assessment the Government of Guam needs to know more details about the military's plans, like how many people will end up here, where will they be housed at, and what kind of infrastructure the military will need to support them and their increased facilities.

J. Peter Roberto is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and Social Services and stated, "One of the things we've worked with the Joint Guam Program Office is we've tried to get information of their statistics of military personnel coming in, so we can factor that in."

And such was a recurring theme of today's presentations overall. More information is needed from the military so that Guam can properly asses its needs and can start making plans of its own. This need for more information was even reflected in a report written by the GAO on Guam's military buildup. All the subcommittees gave basic reports with limited information; one of the most detailed subcommittee reports was given by education chairman David Okada, in which he estimated that Guam will need 6-9 new schools. But even he admits that more information from the Department of Defense is needed.

Senator B.J. Cruz (D) was not satisfied with most of the reports, saying many of them contained more fluff than actual substance. Tony Lamorena advised lawmakers that today's presentations had to be shortened summaries because each subcommittee chair would need at least an hour to report their needs assessments.

Roberto also explained the difficulty in producing more specific presentations without more specific information, saying, "I think the subcommittee agrees...that the questions that we've asked the military for numbers so that we can do a projected plan. We are still not getting the information we want."

In the end it was clear that the CMTF has made a lot of headway in certain areas like establishing communications with various federal agencies but still have a long way to go in getting more information from the DoD.

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