Regional leaders discuss military buildup issues, ideas
by Clynt Ridgell,
Monday, May 05, 2008
Members of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures are on Guam, meeting with local leaders as well as military officials in order to gain a better understanding of the Guam military buildup and how their member nations can fit in. American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Chuuk State, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the state of Hawaii and Guam make up the APIL's membership.
It's an organization created to contribute to the acceleration of economic and social development of the member states individually and collectively. While today they were on Guam to learn more about the military buildup it appears that Guam itself still has a lot to learn. According to one of the major findings of a recently released General Accountability Office report, the U.S. Department of Defense has yet to determine any specifics with regards to the Guam buildup. For example what units, U.S. Marines, facilities, and equipment will be placed on the island.
Joint Guam Program Office forward director USN Captain Robert Lee admits that the planning process is ever changing because of the constantly changing world in which we live. "Even for the Marine Corps, as they're making this move each and everyday, they have to look at what are we going to see in 5, 10, 20 years, and so you know you can take the 8,000 Marines and transplant them. But are they the right 8,000? Exactly which forces do we need to go?" he said.
Senator Ben Pangelinan (D) says that the GAO's report is not surprising, telling KUAM News, "It's no news to me, I think that's how I would sum that up - it's no news to me that the military is still not set in their plans that they haven't identified exactly what their going to do to Guam and what their going to do for Guam. Who are they going to move?"
While Cpt. Lee says that the agreement between the governments of Japan and the United States is still set on moving Marines to Guam, he also admits that no one can says for sure whether or not a change in the U.S.'s administration will mean a change in the Marines' movement. "Anything can affect this move, but keep in mind we've already got commitments from the military, the Government of Japan, the U.S. Government. You've heard the presidential candidates talking about their commitments, so there is a possibility anything's possible. But the wheels are in motion money is being put in place assets are being put in place, so it would be a big surprise if it didn't happen."
While the move of Marines may not be a sure thing, Republican senator Jim Espaldon says the island still has to prepare for the move as if it were going to happen, saying, "The reality is and we're going to have to accept and I think we can acknowledge that we need to prepare ourselves, and so going forward even without the military plans in place and us not being able to finalize and develop our own master plan. And again, we can't do a master plan until we fully understand what the military is going to do and what kind of impact it's going to have. And yet the military, even in its draft master plan, basically states that they're waiting for us to develop a master plan, which is nonsense."
In anticipation of this military buildup, APIL president Sabino Sauchomal explains the importance their visit to Guam. "It looks like the military is here to stay," he said, "So we might as well learn what is in store for all of us those of us who are in the neighborhoods of Guam. I know there are not only bad consequences of this buildup, but there are even more opportunities good things that will happen to Guam."
Sauchomal says the buildup will no doubt open up opportunities for his people and the people of APIL's membership nations, as well.
Read the full report at GAO.gov