Bordallo: Funding Mechanisms Already In Place For Guam Buildup
Written by Jeff Marchesseault
Wednesday, 12 August 2009 21:29
By Jeff Marchesseault
GUAM - "‘The buildup is going to happen. We just have to do it right,'" Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo told Guam News Factor after a speech by the House Armed Services Chairman at the University of Guam this morning.
Bordallo, who chairs the Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee under Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall in the U.S. House of Representatives, was actually quoting Rahall's familiar refrain about the massive military expansion already in its planning and contracting phases on Guam. When asked whether her subcommittee would recommend the omnibus funding legislation now being called for by Guam Senator Judi Guthertz to help ensure adequate funding for a long list of projects related to the civilian-side of the buildup, Bordallo said she preferred piecemeal legislation. And she expressed confidence that all necessary funding would be identified and committed in due course.
Guam Shouldn't Have To Compete
Yesterday, Guthertz, who chairs the local Committee on the Guam Buildup, "told the CODEL that piecemeal legislation will not answer the needs that will appear immediately during the course of the buildup." That, according to a news release she sent after attending a welcome luncheon for the visiting Members of Congress.
In fact, yesterday Guthertz also provided the media with a laundry list of unaddressed issues related to the buildup, including infrastructure and utility upgrades and expansion, capital improvements, transportation funding, economic development, and regular meetings to track buildup progress and ensure fair and equitable treatment of the civilian community. She calls it the "Agenda of Priority Concerns for the Guam Military Buildup".
Referring to her comprehensive outline, Guthertz reasoned, "It is also not just or sufficient to require Guam to compete with the 50 states and the other territories for grants and loans for the above listed projects as if they are not absolutely necessary for a successful buildup."
In fact, in her Agenda, Guthertz goes as far as to suggest, "An OMNIBUS APPROPRIATION BILL MAY BE APPROPRIATE for the civilian community of Guam's needs."
Omnibus Appropriation ‘Unrealistic'
But a CODEL news conference at the Hyatt today told a different story. Several members of the Congressional Delegation said that it would be unrealistic for the Government of Guam to expect one broad piece of legislation to cover realignment needs on Guam - inside or outside the fence.
Referring to the many bodies that will be involved in determining Guam's buildup needs, Bordallo told reporters, "There are so many different committees involved with this buildup...to expect one all-encompassing piece of legislation is not realistic in my opinion."
House Delegate Donna Christensen said, "What the people of Guam and the Legislature can be assured of is that we understand the challenges, given (prevailing) economic conditions." But she added that "given our budgetary constraints, it would be very difficult" to pass omnibus legislation for Guam's buildup needs alone.
"We've had omnibus legislation before but when you're talking about a $16 billion buildup, you're talking about seven different committees," said House Delegate Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa.
Offering perspective on the complexities and resourcefulness of the perennial Congressional money-hunt, Rahall told those gathered at the news conference that some funding "might not be from appropriation, but money that already exists."
That 'Bordallo Swagger'
As a longtime politician who grew up on Guam in the first few years after World War II; who cut her teeth in the current-affairs world of broadcasting; who spent many years in local politics filling roles as First Lady, Senator and gubernatorial contender; and who now represents her island in Congress, Bordallo seems to have the veteran stateswoman's sixth sense and calm resolve that all necessary funding, forms and functions of the military buildup will fall into place as needs arise. And that while it may be the job of some to press for comprehensive lists of necessary changes, it is her fiduciary duty to navigate the competitive realities of the Hill, to negotiate and compromise with the powers that be to help ensure that Guam gets what it needs, when it needs it, without hurting the needs of constituents in the countless jurisdictions outside of Guam.
An example of ‘other needs' was represented right there at the news conference today. Congressman Henry Brown said, "I'm from Charleston, South Carolina where 30,000 people lost their jobs (when a naval facility shut down there after a Base Realignment And Closure assessment)."
New Hope From Hawaii
All neediness aside, Bordallo and the Members of Congress traveling with her are encouraged by a change of command at the White House that has brought renewed focus on Guam and the Pacific. It is evidenced in everything from Hawaii-born Senator Barack Obama opening a presidential-election campaign office on Guam and committing himself to Guam causes such as the fight for war reparations -- to President Obama writing a letter of commendation to patriotic Guam for proudly celebrating its 65th Anniversary Liberation Day and appointing Agat native Tony Babauta as his choice for Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs.
Furthermore, as President, Obama has insisted that Congress must re-include its $211 million 'reduction' in Navy construction on Guam if lawmakers still want his signature on the 2010 Defense Authorization Act. Tossing the construction funding back into the hat will show Japan that the U.S. is serious about honoring its agreement to reduce forces in Okinawa and that America appreciates the $336 million that Japan has already spent on realigning forces to Guam. To do less, in Obama's mind, would be to further jeopardize the $6.09 billion in financing that Japan has previously agreed to in writing.
"In the last few months there's been a real change. Now that you see the new administration, you see a lot more commitment (to Guam and the region going) in a better direction," said Bordallo at today's news conference.
Faleomavaega couldn't have agreed more. "This administration has given a much better structure in dealing with the buildup," he said.
Been There, Done That
Bordallo's parting comments to reporters offered further perspective and steely resolve that could only knowingly come from one as familiar with Guam politics as she. Someone who grew up in post-war Guam with an intermingled sense of a borderless Guam that was then, through military settlement, every bit as American as it was Chamorro.
Referring to a population that is expected to swell to nearly a quarter of a million by the time the buildup is completed over the course of the next decade, to the rapid construction of installations, to the 21st century 'boat loads' of dollars that will be spent on the whole affair, and to the countless hours devoted to planning the best possible outcome for all stakeholders, Bordallo put it to us straight.
"I've been involved in this buildup for a long time. Guam has had numbers like these before. This buildup will occur throughout the island ... and I will be your eyes and ears in Washington to make sure we get what we need."