Monday, December 07, 2009

Guam not ready today, even less for buildup

Guam not ready today, even less for buildup

By Gerhard Schwab • December 6, 2009

Before we ask what needs to change for the human services sector to be ready for the military buildup, we need to ask why our human services of today still are not fully prepared to deal with the social problems associated with Guam's buildup during the past 30 years.

In this time period, the population in Guam almost doubled, from 105,979 in 1980 to about 200,000 expected in the 2010 Census. Although we had three decades to adjust our human services to the increased population and to the socioeconomic changes in Guam, we cannot help but feel "mamalao" and frustrated when federal courts intervene to enforce the delivery and quality of basic public social services, when children in private and public child welfare organizations experience neglect and abuse, when hard-working families do not have the health care and family support they need to care for their elderly and sick family members, when our best local social service professionals leave Guam because of poor working conditions and/or lack of support and resources for their work, when ... when ...

If we, despite the many hard-working caring, and professionally competent people in the human service field still cannot get our human services competent enough to fully address today's social problems, then it is safe to expect that we shall be even less prepared for the planned military buildup.

The magnitude of changes proposed by the military planners are unprecedented in our community; the rate of speed and lack of local input and control in the planning process do not allow an accurate forecasting and planning for the social consequences and problems associated with the military buildup.

Because we are not ready for today, and even less ready for tomorrow, we need to look at the societal, structural factors that produce and maintain our social problems. In order to prevent the increase of social problems, we need to reduce the forces that produce social problems in the various realms of our lives. In other words, slow down and make the military buildup incremental and contingent on the achievement of critical communal quality of life indicators; such as political self-determination, education, health, housing and employment.

Hence, the military buildup only should be allowed to proceed, if:

# A timeline for the exercise of political self-determination of the Chamorro people is agreed upon and gradually implemented;

# The federal government allocates resources to gradually raise the funding levels of Guam's public schools to the same funding levels as military schools;

# A health-care plan is developed and approved to guarantee all residents of Guam access to health-care facilities equally well-equipped and resourced as Guam's military hospital;

# A set of public policies ensures that the quality of housing inside and outside the military fences equally meets human needs; and

# Buildup construction projects are linked with investments into the development of a sustainable local work force.

Gerhard Schwab, Ph.D. is a professor of social work at the University of Guam.

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