Friday, December 09, 2016

War reparations bill passes Congress, moves to White House

On the 75th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Guam during World War II, Chamorros who suffered wartime atrocities are one signature away from getting compensation for their suffering.
The proposed reparations include victims who are still living, and those who have died, according to Guam Del. Madeleine, who pushed the legislation forward.
The U.S. Senate on Friday, Guam time, passed the 2017 defense spending bill, which includes the proposed war reparations for Guam victims of the Japanese occupation.
The same bill passed the House of Representatives a week ago.
The bill now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign the measure into law.  
Bordallo called the milestone "a historic day for our island."
"The passage of the bill also has special significance as (Dec. 8) marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Guam on Dec. 8, 1941 and the start of what would be 32 months of enemy occupation by Imperial Japanese forces," she said in a press release. "Securing passage of this bill has been a long and difficult process."
The bill spells out details of the reparations:
• The surviving spouse, and/or children, of a Guam resident who died during the Japanese occupation, or as Guam was being liberated by U.S. military forces, and whose death would have been compensable under the Guam Meritorious Claims Act of 1945, if a timely claim had been filed under the terms of such Act, are to claim $25,000.
For the wartime survivors who suffered:
• Rape or severe personal injury such as loss of a limb, dismemberment or paralysis, $15,000;
•  Forced labor or a personal injury not specified above, such as disfigurement, scarring or burns, $12,000; and
•  Subjected to forced march, internment, or hiding to evade internment, $10,000.
The funding source for the war reparations would come from part of what's called "Section 30 funds." Section 30 funds come from income taxes paid by U.S. military service members and federal employees who work on Guam.
Section 30 funds that will be provided to Guam over a benchmark of the level that the government of Guam received in fiscal 2014 would be the source of the reparations funding, according to Bordallo's office.
Guam received $87.9 million in Section 30 funds during the benchmark year, according to a Guam Office of Public Accountability report. So the Section 30 amount Guam would receive in fiscal 2018 that's above the fiscal 2014 figure would be available for claims payment, according to Bordallo's office.
The Section 30 funding mechanism would continue until all claims are paid, according to Bordallo's office.
The proposed war reparations needed another funding source to "offset" the spending, in order for the legislation to advance, Bordallo's office stated.
"We intend to work with Gov. Calvo to seek appropriations from the Trump Administration that would hold our local treasury harmless," Bordallo's office stated.
Guam's Section 30 funds have differed each year, from $96 million in fiscal 2013, to $71 million in fiscal 2015.
The claims process would still need to be ironed out.
The number of wartime victims who are still alive isn't immediately available.
Bordallo said she also will work with Sen. Frank Blas Jr. and the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation to see if they can help the local community be prepared for the claims program once it is established.
The bill also fully funds about $170 million in military construction projects for Guam, including projects related to the proposed Marine Corps base near Andersen Air Force Base. 
Bordallo said the bill would also:
  • Lift restrictions on funding for the development of civilian infrastructure related to the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The provision authorizes the use of funds for infrastructure projects that were identified in the Economic Adjustment Committee report issued in October 2015, including the construction of a cultural repository and further upgrades to Guam’s water and wastewater system;
  • Hold the Defense Department accountable to its “net negative” policy by requiring the Navy to report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on the status of implementing the policy. The report should include the total number of acres of real property controlled by the Navy on Guam as well as the process to determine lands to be returned to the government of Guam in accordance with the “net negative” policy;
  • Authorize a review of service records for each military department of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served during the Vietnam War and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross but may be eligible for the Medal of Honor. The provision will correct an oversight of the Fiscal 2002 NDAA, which authorizes similar review for Jewish American and Hispanic American war veterans;
  • Promote invasive species prevention and management in the Asia-Pacific region by requiring a briefing on the Regional Biosecurity Plan on recommendations that will minimize the harmful ecological, social, cultural, and economic impacts of invasive species, including brown tree snakes. The briefing will help to hold the Department of Defense and other federal agencies accountable for providing sufficient funding and prioritization for the successful implementation of this plan;
  • Require Department of Defense to provide a briefing on the feasibility of re-establishing port calls by Taiwanese naval vessels in U.S. ports during their annual training exercises. The potential for port calls, including on Guam, is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and could enhance theater security cooperation plans;
  • Require a quarterly report from the DoD on Freedom of Navigation Operations consistent with the recommendations of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission which help to ensure we are making clear the U.S. position on China’s "reckless actions in the South China Sea." This was an amendment co-sponsored with Rep. Randy Forbes, a co-chairman of the Congressional China Caucus with Bordallo;
  • Express a sense of Congress‎ supporting senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. Increased engagements would further develop the bilateral relationship and encourage the sharing of knowledge, training and experiences. This was also a bipartisan effort with Forbes. 
  • Express the sense of Congress that the U.S. should continue to support trilateral cooperation with Japan and South Korea. The provision also calls for continued support for defense cooperation between Japan and South Korea on the full range of issues related to North Korea, as well as non-proliferation, cyber security, maritime security, security technology and capability development, and other areas of security mutual benefit.
  • Support $67.5 million in additional funding for water and wastewater upgrades on Guam through the Office of Economic Adjustment.
  • Support the president’s budget request for the MQ-4 Triton Navy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and adds funding to procure an additional MQ-4 to meet Navy requirements;
  • Support the president’s budget request for the Long-Range Strike Bomber program;
  • Provide additional funding for the National Guard State Partnership Program to help meet the National Guard Bureau’s requirement;
  • Provide an additional $15 million above president’s budget for a total of $75 million for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program.

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