77-page draft document seeks public input
By Haidee V. Eugenio
The CNMI plans to provide operational support and services to Guam instead of viewing the neighbor island as a “competition” to maximize benefits from the $15-billion, multi-year U.S. military buildup in Guam.
This highlights the 77-page draft document, “A Strategic Approach: Utilizing CNMI's Natural Resources to Provide Complimentary [sic] Support to DoD Guam.”
The publication of the document marks the first time that the CNMI government has come up with a written plan on how to benefit from the movement of some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, some 17,000 family members, and up to 20,000 federal construction workers to the island.
The public has until this Friday, Oct. 16, to comment on the draft document.
These operational and support services, which are detailed in the draft report, include the CNMI providing airport and seaport facilities for deployment, training and relocation; provide ground forces training areas; provide storage facilities; provide solid food like “meals ready to eat” for military personnel; catering services; and lastly, provide a rest and recreation destination for military personnel.
Project Management Operations LLC, a Colorado-based global provider of project management and information technology operation consulting services, prepared the draft document as consultants to the CNMI Department of Commerce and Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's Strategic Economic Development Council (SEDC).
In recent months, top U.S. military officials, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, visited Saipan as part of a familiarization tour in the Pacific region.
So far, however, the U.S. military has not announced concrete plans for the CNMI when it comes to the buildup on Guam.
Press secretary Charles Reyes, when asked for comment on the draft document yesterday, said the U.S. military regional buildup is strongly viewed as one of the main sources of economic opportunity for an economic recovery, in a critical period under federalization.
He said the CNMI government and the CNMI private business sector are closely collaborating to maximize the economic benefits and reduce the costs of the Marianas U.S. military buildup.
“We want to make sure that the CNMI works with Guam, the federal government, the military, and all stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition into a new economy with federalization and the U.S. military buildup. This effort is but a starting point. Much still needs to be done. We must also coordinate our efforts with the Tinian leadership,” Reyes told Saipan Tribune.
The federal government will take over CNMI immigration by Nov. 28, 2009 as mandated by U.S. Public Law 110-229 or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act.
Among other things, the CNMI may lose its critical Chinese and Russian tourist markets under the visa waiver program of the federalization law. This means millions in tourism revenue loss for the CNMI.
But the void left by these two tourist market, should no legislative fix or administrative fix occur, can be filled up by economic benefits of the regional military buildup in Guam.
The draft document's goal is to emphasize military opportunities associated with the regional buildup as the CNMI tries to understand how the military buildup can be beneficial to its people.
Currently, there are three recommended choices of strategy:
1. Treat Guam as the competition regarding military operations and service support;
2. Recognize Guam as an ally and offer complementary operational support and services; and
3. Maintain status quo by continuing to market the CNMI's natural resources to the surrounding populations.
Consultants Project Management Operations LLC, in the draft document, recommends for the CNMI to choose option 2 - be a complement to Guam's military buildup with the following strategy focuses in order of importance: operational support; supply and maintenance; and quality of life services.
“If the CNMI views Guam as a partner, then together, the communities can provide a complementary set of operational support, supply and services, along with the opportunities to utilize the natural resources and beauty that the CNMI offers. The islands can enjoy the successes of Guam and reap the benefits of the increased revenue opportunities for the near and long term alike,” the draft document said.
If the CNMI views Guam as its competition regarding military operations and support “then the CNMI has lost,” the consultants said.
CNMI military opportunities
The CNMI, being a U.S. territory and its capital island of Saipan only 120 miles from Guam, can provide alternate airport and seaport facilities that could be used to enhance training opportunities for deployment training, and operations and maintenance logistics function, the document said.
In addition to the training opportunities, the airfield operations facilities, supported by the U.S. Air Force Guam operations staff, provide alternate hangar capacity in the case of relocation of aircraft and crews due to mission requirements and/or weather.
“The CNMI's natural resources and proximity to the other forces in the region give it a unique competitive advantage that should be explored. The CNMI's unique situation provides the DoD with an excellent option for training and support services,” the consultants said.
The CNMI's resources can also be used to provide surface training areas.
For example, a small arms training range, which is being planned for Tinian, is an excellent way for the CNMI to use its resources to meet the needs of the Marines and take advantage of the chance to provide critical operational support while gaining the opportunity to receive capital investment into the CNMI economy.
Historically, ranges of this nature have been estimated to provide between $10 million and $25 million in capital investment into the construction of the project.
“The CNMI has the opportunity to propose further capital investments by offering land for ammunition storage facilities on Tinian. The users of this range will require ammunition for each training rotation,” the draft document said.
Other potential and specific opportunities the CNMI may have with the U.S. Department of Defense: port of embarkation and debarkation; staging of prepositioned equipment; deployment support; deployment training; and ground forces training.
“Overall, [this gives] the best opportunity for the CNMI to show its awareness of the DoD's needs and to demonstrate its willingness to support the U.S. mission in the region. The CNMI needs to move swiftly, but surely, to secure a seat at the table when support operations are being discussed,” the consultants said.
Under the military supply and maintenance support, the CNMI can provide fuel storage and distribution; water storage and distribution; waste removal and processing; food handling and distribution; provide meals, catering services, potable water and ice; provide depot and field level maintenance as well as electronic maintenance; and storage facilities of all kinds.
Lastly, the CNMI can be a place where military service personnel can relax.
“The calm waters and placid beaches set an amazing backdrop that can be utilized to provide the much needed rest and relaxation opportunities that the DoD provides to its service members and families,” the draft report said.
Wanted: Military liaison
Consultants Project Management Operations LLC, in the draft document, also recommended the CNMI's hiring of a military liaison “to help create the necessary relationships to effectively meet both the military's and the CNMI's requirements.”
“The CNMI needs that person who can build rapport by speaking the language and understanding the needs of the [Department of Defense] while maintaining vigilant support of the CNMI's resources, heritage and goals for providing support to the DoD and its allies,” the document reads.
A copy of the draft document is now available on the CNMI Department of Commerce website, www.commerce.gov.mp.
Comments on the draft document can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.