Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Buildup Angers Guam

On Guam, planned Marine base raises anger, infrastructure concerns
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post
March 22, 2010

HAGATNA, GUAM -- This remote Pacific island is home to U.S. citizens who are fervent supporters of the military, as measured by their record of fighting and dying in America's recent wars.

But they are angry about a major military buildup here, which the government of Guam and many residents say is being grossly underfunded. They fear that the construction of a new Marine Corps base will overwhelm the island's already inadequate water and sewage systems, as well as its port, power grid, hospital, highways and social services.

"Our nation knows how to find us when it comes to war and fighting for war," said Michael W. Cruz, lieutenant governor of Guam and an Army National Guard colonel who recently returned from a four-month tour as a surgeon in Afghanistan. "But when it comes to war preparations -- which is what the military buildup essentially is -- nobody seems to know where Guam is."

The federal government has given powerful reasons to worry to the 180,000 residents of Guam, a balmy tropical island whose military importance derives from its location as by far the closest U.S. territory to China and North Korea.

The Environmental Protection Agency said last month that the military buildup, as described in Pentagon documents, could trigger island-wide water shortages that would "fall disproportionately on a low income medically underserved population." It also said the buildup would overload sewage-treatment systems in a way that "may result in significant adverse public health impacts."

A report by the Government Accountability Office last year came to similar conclusions, saying the buildup would "substantially" tax Guam's infrastructure.

President Obama had planned to visit Guam on Monday as the brief first stop of an Asia trip, but he delayed his travel because of Sunday's health-care vote in the House. Obama is aware of the problems here and had planned to promise some federal help, White House officials said.

"We're trying to identify and understand the current conditions on Guam and the potential impact of the relocation," said Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who on Tuesday will lead a delegation to the island. "There's no question that the environmental conditions on Guam are not ideal."

Besides a new Marine base and airfield, the buildup includes port dredging for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a project that would cause what the EPA describes as an "unacceptable" impact on 71 acres of a vibrant coral reef. The military, which owns 27 percent of the island, also wants to build a Marine firing range on land that includes one of the last undeveloped beachfront forests on Guam.

'Should not proceed'

In a highly unusual move, the EPA graded the buildup plan as "environmentally unsatisfactory" and said it "should not proceed as proposed."

"The government of Guam and the Guam Waterworks cannot by themselves accommodate the military expansion," said Nancy Woo, associate director of the EPA's western regional water division. She said Guam would need about $550 million to upgrade its water and sewage systems. White House officials said the EPA findings are preliminary.

Guam government officials put the total direct and indirect costs of coping with the buildup at about $3 billion, including $1.7 billion to improve roads and $100 million to expand the already overburdened public hospital. On this island -- where a third of the population receives food stamps and about 25 percent lives below the U.S. poverty level -- that price tag cannot be paid with local tax revenue.

"It is not possible and it is not fair that the island bear the cost," Woo said.

At the peak of construction, the buildup would increase Guam's population by 79,000 people, or about 45 percent. The EPA said the military plans, so far, to pay for public services for about 23,000 of the new arrivals, mostly Marines and their dependents who are relocating from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Ceded to the United States by Spain in 1898, Guam is a U.S. territory. Its residents are American citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections and have no voting representative in Congress.

The Marine Corps is sensing a populist backlash on Guam, which is three times the size of the District of Columbia and more than 6,000 miles west of Los Angeles.

"I see a rising level of concern about how we are going to manage this," Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, the Hawaii-based commander of Marine forces in the Pacific, said in a telephone interview. "I think it is becoming clearer every day that they need outside assistance."

The White House said Obama included $750 million in his budget to address the civilian impact of the relocation and has asked Congress for $1 billion next year, but Guam officials say they have received no assurances from the federal government that the money is headed their way.

No input in decision

Guam was not consulted in the decision to move 8,000 Marines -- about half those based in Okinawa -- to the island. The $13 billion move was negotiated in 2006 between the Bush administration and a previous Japanese government, with Japan paying about $6 billion of the non-civilian cost, as a way of reducing the large U.S. military footprint in Okinawa.

But in the past year, with new leadership in Tokyo, the Japanese role in the move has become complicated. Anti-military sentiment is growing in Okinawa; Japan's new leaders have yet to decide if they will allow a Marine air station to remain anywhere in the country. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has expressed irritation with Japan, even as the Pentagon presses ahead with its plan to shift the Marines to Guam by 2014.

The government of Guam and most of its residents initially welcomed the buildup. It was viewed as good for business, and the military enjoys deep respect here. Many families have members serving in the armed forces; among the 50 states and four territories, this island regularly ranks first in recruiting success. Guam's killed-in-action rate is about four times as high as on the mainland.

Guam is the only American soil with a sizable population to have been occupied by a foreign military power. During World War II, the Japanese held the island for 2 1/2 brutal years, building concentration camps and forcing the indigenous Chamorro people to provide slave labor and sex. Beheadings were common.

Led by the Marines, American forces liberated the island in 1944, and people here say they still feel a debt to the United States. To repay it, they proudly call their island the "tip of the spear" for projecting U.S. military power in the Far East. Guam already has Navy and Air Force bases that can handle many of the most potent weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Nuclear-powered attack submarines, F-22 fighter jets and B-2 stealth bombers frequent the island, which will soon be protected by its own anti-missile system.

"We don't mind being the tip of spear, but we don't want to get the shaft," said Simon A. Sanchez II, chairman of Guam's commission on public utilities. "We have been asking for help from Day One, but we have not got any meaningful appropriations."

'Not being listened to'

The governor of Guam, Felix Camacho, asked the military last month to slow down the deployment of Marines until sufficient federal money arrives. But as a territory, and without a vote in Congress, the island has negligible lobbying power and no legal means of halting the buildup.

Many residents have hoped that Obama -- a fellow Pacific islander, who was born in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia -- might understand their anxieties and unlock federal resources. The White House said Obama will visit Guam when his Asia trip is rescheduled, perhaps in June.

I just want to remind President Obama that his story is our story," said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an English instructor at the University of Guam and a leader of a group opposing the buildup. She said her students read Obama's autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," focusing on a coming-of-age passage from his years in Hawaii, in which he describes his realization that he was "utterly alone."

"That's how we feel here," she said. "We feel like we are not being listened to, like we are not being respected."

The federal government's push to further militarize this island -- combined with its heel-dragging in paying for the impact on civilians -- has led many Guam residents to doubt the value of their relationship with the United States.

"This is old-school colonialism all over again," said LisaLinda Natividad, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Guam and an activist opposing the buildup. "It boils down to our political status -- we are occupied territory."

Staff writer Michael D. Shear in Washington contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why are We in Guam?

Why Are We in Guam?The United States wants to build a Marine Corps base on the tiny Pacific island.

Recent reports indicate that a vocal minority in Guam—or Guahanoppose the construction of a U.S. Marine Corps base on the island. Apparently, concerned citizens doubt that this tiny Pacific landmass has sufficient resources to accommodate the predicted 45 percent increase in population. What are we doing in Guam, anyway?

Keeping an eye on Asia. Thirty miles long and an average of 8 miles wide, Guam is the largest island in Micronesia and the only U.S. territory in the region large enough for a major airport or military base. Located roughly 1,500 miles from Japan and China, 2,500 miles from Vietnam, and 2,000 miles from North Korea and Russia, Guam is a crucial geopolitical nexus in East Asia. The island attained strategic importance during the Japanese Imperial and Soviet eras and remains a convenient base of military operations because of the increasing prominence of China on the world stage and the perennial threat posed by Kim Jong-il's regime. (In fact, this unincorporated territory was supposed to be President Obama's first stop on his postponed trip to Asia.) Another point in the island's favor: It's a territory of the United States with limited self-government, so—unlike our autonomous Asian allies who are getting tired of hosting American military bases—Guam can't kick us out.

The United States acquired Guam from Spain in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. While the island territory was a relatively sleepy coaling station for much of the early 20th century, the events of WWII—including the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Guam's occupation by Japanese forces—precipitated a substantial postwar military buildup that has continued to this day. During much of the Cold War, the United States used the island as a communications and intelligence-gathering center and as a storage facility for B-52 bombers, nuclear missile submarines, and other garden-variety military weapons. Today, Guam also serves as a logistical link to the American base at Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean.

With Andersen Air Force Base in the north and a Naval base and Coast Guard station in the south, U.S. military installations in Guam form the largest sector of the economy after tourism. Bases blanket nearly one-third of the island, a figure that would rise to over 40 percent with the planned addition of a Marine Corps base, airfield, and firing range. Despite public opposition and government reports cautioning against the planned expansion, a recent poll by the University of Guam reveals that the general population mostly favors the buildup, with 81 percent of respondents predicting a better economy. The U.S. military is such a large fixture in the lives of Guamanians that the territory boasts the largest rate of military recruitment in the United States.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Legalizing Marijuana on Guam?

Legalizing marijuana strongly considered
Posted: Mar 29, 2010 4:15 PM
Updated: Mar 30, 2010 8:36 AM
by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - The state of California is one state that has approved of tolerating medicinal cannabis use - but it appears that the Golden State is now inching towards full legalization for individuals who are at least 21 years old. In fact, the initiative will be on a November ballot largely prompted in part by the state's budgetary deficit.

While some critics call marijuana a "gateway drug" that would merely exacerbate the drug culture, proponents argue decriminalization can save a state or territory, millions of dollars in public safety costs incurred when individuals are put in jail. Following the untimely death of Yona resident Vincent Peredo, partly attributed to stealing marijuana, one lawmaker is now considering introducing legislation similar to California's, saying the community must take a close look at the implications of decriminalizing the drug or tolerating medical users.

"Attorneys have gone on record saying in their thirty-some years of experience, they've never known anyone killed for marijuana, and there is probably some more to with that story," noted Senator Rory Respicio. The recent news that the murder of a Yona man was linked to stealing marijuana sent many in the community into shock and prompted the Democrat policymaker to consider the merits of de-criminalizing the drug.

"I don't want that issue to crowd what we are attempting to do because there is probably value in moving forward and attempting to legalize marijuana," the senator added. The added value the lawmaker is referring to includes looking beyond medicinal applications to the potential economic benefits that would stem from taxing and developing this industry as the state of California is considering.

He said, "It does have medicinal value, it's the same doctors and now economists saying beyond medicinal value, you can have an economic value to this."

Currently marijuana usage of any kind is illegal on island, but Dr. Chris Dombrowski is a family physician on Guam and a long time advocate for medical cannabis usage. He told KUAM News, "I would use cannabis in the way a lot of physicians use the benzodiazepines, Xanax or Calium, I would say fifteen percent of my patients would do well on cannabis." Dr. Dombrowski adds in this way it would serve as an anti anxiety agent, muscle relaxer and help with insomnia.

Senator Respicio says he knows it will spark debate.

Several island citizens responded to the question of whether he'd support the substance's legalization, with Flores Abina saying, "I would say no because it would cause more problems and more planting of marijuana." Asako Megofna added, "It's not for medicine, they use it to make them crazy. I've seen kids taking marijuana, but they are worse, they don't have respect," and Damaris Simeon said, "If it's for medical reasons, then yeah it should be okay.

Senator Respicio says he is interested in the response of the community to the issue noting his staff is currently deciding how to peruse this - either as an initiative or a bill that would authorize implementation within 30 days.

Senator Respicio hasn't decided yet whether he will introduce the legalization of marijuana in the form of a bill or an initiative.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

US Army and Native Hawaiians Sign Covenant

Army signs Native Hawaiian covenant
Posted: Mar 24, 2010 6:02 PM Updated: Mar 24, 2010 6:02 PM

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Native Hawaiian community and the military have often been at odds over the use of land across the islands. But Wednesday, representatives from both signed a promise to work together.

It’s called the Native Hawaiian Covenant, a simple one-page statement along with six goals designed to heal the hard feelings between the two groups.

The Royal Order of Kamehameha started the ceremony with an offering at the Kukalepa Memorial at Fort DeRussy. The memorial stands in honor of maoli killed in battles. After the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and Hawaii Ponoi, members of the army and the Native Hawaiian Community stepped forward to sign the covenant.

It states the army will work to protect and preserve the fragile environment of the islands, as well as keep a dialogue open with Native Hawaiians while meeting the military’s missions.

One development is already planned at Makua Valley. The leeward Oahu training ground has been the center of several battles from groups who say military action there is destroying cultural sites and living species

“Through funding obtained from Senator Daniel Inouye’s office, we are creating a visitor’s center at the Makua Military reservation that will provide a location to describe the history of the valley and the rare cultural artifacts and unique plants and animal life located in that beautiful valley,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Hawaii. “We encourage people to visit Makua and fully support cultural access events and activities there.”

“It is the responsibility of the army and other other branches of service to safeguard us from unwarranted aggression,” said Neil Hannahs, a Kamehameha Schools Land Manager and member of the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council formed for this covenant. “The Kanaka Maoli advisory council recognizes these circumstances, and strives through this covenant to respect the importance of host culture needs and values while also recognizing the contribution of the military’s presence in ensuring our security and freedom.”

The covenant ceremony ended with hula, and the planting of an ulu to symbolize a new beginning.

Here is the complete text of the Native Hawaiian Covenant:

US Army-Hawaii’s Covenant with Native Hawaiians

We recognize that…

…The Native Hawaiians are nâ kanaka ôîwi Hawaii…the aboriginal peoples of Hawai’i.

…Native Hawaiian’ cultural and historical experiences are shaped by the land and surrounding ocean…that as the Army maintains and uses the land of Hawai’i, it is mindful to protect and preserve this fragile environment and ensure that what remains is a meaningful legacy for future generations.

We are committed to:

Providing sustainable installation support and services for Joint War fighters, our Army Families, and the military community that meets current and future mission requirements, safeguards human health, improves quality of life and enhances the natural environment;

Providing proactive dialogue with Native Hawaiians to ensure the meaningful exchange of information and to enable sound, informed decisions by the Army that respects the legacy of the Native people of Hawai’i while meeting the mission and goals of the Army;

Building a partnership between the Native Hawaiian community and the US Army, a relationship that promotes mutual cooperation, understanding and enhances the standing of each within the community;

We are committed to a mutually beneficial relationship between Native Hawaiians and the US Army, Hawai’i by:

- Enhancing education and understanding of Native Hawaiian issues, culture, and values to Army Soldiers and Families

- Enhancing education and understanding of Army values, culture and actions to the Native Hawaiian community

- Leveraging opportunities for proactive dialogue between the Army and Native Hawaiians

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Final EIS This Summer

Final EIS out by summer
Thursday, 25 March 2010 04:55
by Zita Y. Taitano
Marianas Variety News Staff

THE final version of the environmental impact statement for the military buildup could be ready by late June or early July, Joint Guam Program Office director John Jackson said yesterday.

Jackson made the announcement before the Mayors Council during yesterday’s special meeting.

He said JGPO has received a total of 8,600 comments on the draft report.

He said the comments came from different places including Guam, Japan, the Philippines, and Hawaii, among others.

“Those comments range from ‘We’re glad to see the Marines coming’ to ‘Yankee go home,’” Jackson said.

The documents received will be reviewed by a team in Hawaii and then put in 45 categories for the final version.

And while he didn’t go into what those categories were, Jackson said that they would be included in the final version and be referred to as actionable comments. Other comments that do not have any direct impact on the final study will be omitted.

“Once the final study is put out on the street, there will be a 30-day period from the time it is published to the time that the record of decision can be made in August,” Jackson said.

Jackson explained that the record of decision will be comprised of multiple alternatives and preferred alternatives by the Secretary of the Navy.

“The Secretary of the Navy may say he concurs with the preferred alternative at Finegayan for the Marine Corps Base or he may say I like that part, but I also want you to modify it to do the following things so the record of decision basically takes the recommendations from the final EIS and the decision signs off on it with yes or no,” said Jackson.

As for the failing grade that the draft report has received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson said when the study was drafted last September, it was based on the input from the scoping meetings, and that several issues brought up had already been addressed.

He said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Environmental Quality Council, told him the issues and concerns were already taken care of.

Jackson, however, didn’t specify the issues that he said have been addressed.

$1.75 Billion

Buildup utilities cost: $1.75B
By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News
March 24, 2010

It could cost as much as $1.75 billion to prepare Guam's utilities for the military buildup and the growth beyond, and the federal government must pay for the costs that local residents cannot afford, the island's highest utility official said yesterday.

Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, explained this price tag during a closed-door briefing with President Obama's chief environmental adviser yesterday.

Sanchez said the island needs a commitment that the federal government is willing to pay to make Obama's "One Guam, Green Guam" vision a reality -- or delay the buildup.

"What we shared with the feds this morning was: Inside this $1.5 billion to $2 billion, we are going to find a number that is the most the people of Guam can afford to pay," Sanchez said.

That number is enough for only some of the upgrades Guam's power, water and wastewater systems need to prepare, Sanchez said. The buildup is expected to bring 80,000 more people to the island by 2014.

"If the federal government wants more than that to occur, they have to fill in the gap," Sanchez said.

Some of the sharpest expert criticism of the coming military buildup came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in February. Like Sanchez, the U.S. EPA said the buildup's impact on drinking water and wastewater could threaten the island's aquifer and public health.

If these concerns aren't addressed, U.S. EPA will call on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which acts as a referee when federal agencies disagree.
The council's chairwoman is Nancy Sutley -- whom Sanchez briefed yesterday morning.

Journalists weren't allowed to attend the briefing, which was held at the Naval Base admiral's office. Sanchez and Sutley spoke about their meeting during a tour of Guam's northern wastewater treatment plant yesterday afternoon.

Sutley said it was obvious that the island had many long-standing infrastructure needs and the buildup would add to those shortcomings. The puzzle of who pays for the solutions must be solved, she said.

"I know there are lots of discussions going on on costs and it is important information for us and this (is) clearly an issue we are going to have to resolve, about who pays and how," Sutley said. "... We have a lot to think about and a lot of work to do still."

Direct and indirect

Regardless of whether the buildup happens, many of these improvements would be unavoidable as Guam grows, Sanchez said. But the sudden spike in population in 2014 has forced some changes to happen sooner.

Some of these changes are direct impacts -- such as the increased power, water and sewage needs of the new Marine base -- for which the military has been more than willing to help pay, Sanchez said. One example is that the military has discussed paying as much as $50 million to make upgrades at the northern wastewater treatment plant that was toured yesterday, he said.

But indirect impacts are more difficult to plan for and pay for, so Guam needs even more money from the Department of Defense for these, Sanchez said.

For example: The Guam Power Authority had planned to build a new power plant in 2022, but because the buildup will increase power needs sooner, the plant is now needed in 2017, Sanchez said.

"So why should Ms. Cruz pay for debt service on the cost of another generator five years sooner than she would if (the Marines) didn't show up?" Sanchez said.
Closed doors

Sutley's two-day fact-finding trip ended yesterday, and much of her research about Guam has taken place behind closed doors.

Only hand-picked community groups were allowed in a stakeholders meeting on Monday afternoon, and journalists weren't allowed in the briefing held yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, Sutley met with local senators behind closed doors.

Sutley said the meetings were designed to create "frank and candid" conversations and she didn't know if journalists would get in the way of that.

Dave Lotz, president of the Guam Boonie Stompers, said he was insulted that the White House met with "cherry-picked" stakeholders on Monday.

The Boonie Stompers have worked to retain access to local hiking trails when the military expands it borders during the buildup. This group -- and anyone else who was interested -- should have been allowed in that stakeholders meeting with Sutley, Lotz said.

"Somebody was making a judgment that they thought these were the important groups," Lotz said. "The bigger picture, obviously, ... is why are these stakeholders meetings meant to exclude true community involvement?"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

DEIS Deserves an F

DEIS F grade deserves supplemental effort
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 03:17
by Sen. Ben Pangelinan
Marianas Variety

THE recent grade given the draft environmental impact statement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency merits an extra step in the National Environmental Protection Act process before it goes to final. This is the lowest grade possible and speaks to the inadequacy and technical deficiencies of the document in addressing the impact of the military buildup on our community.
In response, I sent a letter to Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Council of Environmental Quality, to step in and order a supplemental impact study, which directs the military to develop and commit to changes in their plan to adequately addresses the concerns raised by the USEPA experts, our own local environmental experts and the economic experts who pointed out blatant errors in the technical assumptions and conclusions of the DEIS.

Below, I share my letter to her with you.

“Dear Ms. Sutley:

In November 2009, the Department of Defense completed close to an 11,000 page draft environmental impact statement that attempted to detail the impact on Guam of relocating 8,000 Marines and 12,000 dependents from Okinawa, dredging the only harbor to allow visiting Aircraft Carrier Berthing, and the creation of an Army Air and Missile Defense Task Force.

“During the 90-day comment period, the citizens of Guam, many of them professionals in the environmental field outlined and submitted thousands of comments identifying defects in the analysis of how the proposed activity will impact Guam and her residents.

“On February 17, 2010, the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency issued a ninety-five page report titled: EPA Detailed Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact statement for the Guam and the CNMI Military Relocation.” In the report, USEPA issued a rating of environmentally unsatisfactory; inadequate information (EU-3); the worst rating that the USEPA could assign to the DEIS.

“Review of USEPA’s comments indicate that the DEIS is “unsatisfactory from the standpoint of public health or welfare or environmental quality,” and thus subject to referral by USEPA to the Council of Environmental Quality pursuant to Section 309 of the Clean Air Act. It is also clear that the issues raised are of national importance because of the threat to the national environmental resources or policies.

“In July 2006, the Civilian/Military Task Force established a working group between the government of Guam, federal agencies and the DOD to create a master plan for the proposed buildup and address all the environmental and socioeconomic issues created by this unprecedented peace time troop movement.

“Subject matter experts from government of Guam agencies that signed confidentiality agreements with the DOD were provided an advanced copy of the DEIS before its release in order to identify any gaps or issues that were not properly addressed.

“Between the creation of the C/MTF, the advance review of the DEIS and the official release of the DEIS, the government of Guam has documented its concerns with the scope and severity of the potential impacts of these projects.

“The contents and substance of the DEIS evidences that little or no progress was made in resolving these differences between government of Guam, its agencies, federal agencies, and the DOD. This is further evidenced by the periodic reports by the United States Government Accountability Office on the progress of the DOD projects on Guam over the time period between the scoping meeting and the release of the DEIS. Review of the DEIS makes clear that the potential adverse environmental impacts are extreme in each of the following categories:

(a) Possible violation of national environmental standards or policies.
(b) Severity.
(c) Geographical scope.
(d) Duration.
(e) Importance as precedents.
(f) Availability of environmentally preferable alternatives.

“As a senior member of the Guam Legislature representing over 150,000 U.S. citizens on our island, I am requesting that Council of Environmental Quality be proactive by ordering a supplemental environmental impact statement be performed that addresses the many issues identified by USEPA and the citizens of Guam during the comment period.

“The SEIS must include corrections to erroneous analysis, identification of compatible alternatives and equitable mitigation. In addition, the SEIS must be completed prior to the issuance of the final EIS and the record of decision by the Department of Defense in light of the volume and scope of the DEIS, and in order to allow the citizens of Guam to fully review and comment on the new plans and revised studies.

“Guam continues to answer the call to support the United States with her resources and citizens; however, we are in need of assistance to ensure that the interests of the federal government, especially the Department of Defense are not placed above the vitality, viability and equitable survival of our homeland and our people.

“Thank you for taking an interest in these important matters that affect both our environment and quality of life. It is my sincerest hope that the council will act expeditiously to protect Guam from any unnecessary and irreversible harm resulting from any proposed actions of the Department of Defense.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Okinawa Officials Push Tokyo on Marine Operations

Okinawa officials push Tokyo on removing Marine air operations
By David Allen and Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, March 13, 2010

GINOWAN, Okinawa — Okinawa officials are unleashing a full-court press on Tokyo to let the government know they don’t want Marine air operations to remain on the island.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and members of the Okinawa Assembly were in Tokyo this week visiting government offices to make sure their unanimous voice is being heard as the government reviews a 2006 agreement with the U.S. to close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Several alternatives to the present plan are being considered by a panel that is to submit its report to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama by the end of the month. He has set a deadline of May for settling on a site with the United States.

The leading proposals are to build a smaller air facility on a portion of Camp Schwab away from the water, move the Marine air units to Kadena Air Base, or build a new air station on reclaimed land off the Navy’s White Beach port.

All are unacceptable to Okinawans, Nakaima told Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano on Wednesday.

“The purpose of building runways off the shore of Camp Schwab was to reduce the danger and impact to the local communities,” Nakaima said, according to a spokesman for Okinawa’s Futenma Relocation Task Force. “Yet, the idea of moving the air operations to the ground area of the base is in the reverse direction, which is incomprehensible to me.”

The spokesman said Hirano, who heads the review committee, told Nakaima that options for moving the Marines outside Okinawa were still on the table and the government would wrap up its study by the end of the month and would consult with him prior to an announcement.

Meanwhile, a nine-member delegation from the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly met with Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa and delivered its unanimous resolution opposing any move of the Marines to a new base on Okinawa.

Yonekichi Shinzato, the head of the Social Democratic Party’s Okinawa chapter, told reporters it seemed Tokyo was leaning toward an Okinawa site.

“They have no idea how much the Okinawan people have suffered from the heavy burden of shouldering military bases since the end of World War II,” he said. “I hope the government fully understands the meaning of our resolution.”

Okinawa is host to almost half the U.S. troops in Japan and 75 percent of the land used for bases.

The Futenma controversy is threatening to unravel Hatoyama’s ruling coalition. None of the alternative sites are acceptable to all three coalition parties. The Social Democratic Party has threatened to leave the coalition if an Okinawa site is chosen and the People’s New Party has pledged to follow if the current plan under the 2006 realignment plan remains in effect.

Even Hatoyama’s majority Democratic Party of Japan is fractured, with party secretary general Ichiro Ozawa, often called the power behind the throne, expressing his dissatisfaction over proposals to relocate the base within Okinawa.

Ozawa told party officials earlier in the week that any plan to keep the Futenma operations on Okinawa would hurt them in this summer’s Upper House elections.

On the other side of the Pacific, the U.S. continues to contend that the current plan is the only option that meets its regional security requirements.

Obama Delays Guam Trip

Obama delays trip to Guam: President to remain in D.C. for health-care reform legislation
By Laura Matthews • Pacific Sunday News • March 14, 2010

A three-day delay in President Obama's start of his trip to Asia won't prevent him from stopping on Guam.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said the president is still planning to stop by the island.

"The president decided to delay his departure for the final effort to pass health-care-reform legislation," Bordallo said yesterday via press release. "The White House has not released any new details of the President's visit to Asia, but I have been assured by White House staff that the President is still intending to visit Guam."

Bordallo said health-care reform is one of the president's "top legislative priorities" and added that she knows once that work is done "he will certainly appreciate the warm welcome that he will receive on Guam."

According to USA Today, Obama is delaying the start of his trip to Asia -- which includes a stopover in Guam -- by three days from Thursday, March 18, to Sunday, March 21.

Also, the first family will not be accompanying him on his trip, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed in the report.

According to the Associated Press, Obama's trip will run March 21 to March 26 because Gibbs insisted that Congress act on the health legislation by March 18, which was Obama's original departure date.

Acting Gov. Michael Cruz said he knows the president's visit to Guam is still on the agenda and Adelup will continue to work with the White House in preparation for the visit.

"We were informed late last night that the President's trip has been delayed," Cruz said. "At this point, a visit to Guam remains on President Obama's agenda and we have not been notified otherwise. We will continue to work with the White House and the president's advance team to prepare for his visit."

But Cruz isn't the only one preparing for the presidential visit.

The Guam Visitors Bureau is ready to give Obama a warm Guam welcome and host an island-style fiesta if it gets clearance to do so. It is also looking to shower the president with souvenirs.

Others are hoping that Obama will have enough time to address the community.
Several local senators have sent letters to the president asking him to meet with the local community.

In addition, the political action group We Are Guåhan submitted a petition with more than 11,000 electronic signatures asking President Obama to speak with the local community when he makes his visit. We Are Guåhan said it sent its petition to the White House on Thursday via e-mail and through the postal service.

Obama is scheduled to meet with Gov. Felix Camacho and it is still uncertain if the president will make a public address or discuss buildup issues with other members of the government or community.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thousand Sign We Are Guahan Petition


Thousands Call on Obama to Speak with All of Guam’s People, Hear Concerns About Buildup

March 11, 2010, GUAM – With the largest military realignment in modern history slated to hit the US Territory of Guam, over 11,000 people from the Pacific Island and across the globe signed a petition asking President Barack Obama to speak directly with the people of Guam during his short visit next week. Obama's visit is an opportunity for the island's residents, who do not have the right to vote for President, to voice the many concerns they have with the buildup.

We Are Guåhan, a grassroots collective of individuals, families and organizations working to inform the community about the impacts of the buildup, began circulating the petition when it was announced last month that Obama would visit the island, but only speak to military personnel at Andresen Air Force Base.

After review of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released on November 30, 2009, We Are Guåhan worked with other concerned organizations and individuals to educate the community on the impacts of the buildup. We Are Guåhan, along with Government of Guam agencies, other organizations and concerned individuals submitted thousands of comments on the DEIS-- many of them pointing to the negative impacts outlined there for the people, economy and environment.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's indictment of the DEIS late February, it has become increasingly clear that the military realignment to Guam will threaten the health and safety of the island's residents.

"We have not been able to say yes or no to this," says Jon Blas, resident of the village of Tamuning and member of We Are Guåhan. "Hawaii said no. California said no. But we were never given the opportunity. It's not fair, especially because it is looking like this is going to hurt us more than help us."

We Are Guåhan's growing membership felt that a strong message must be sent to Washington DC. The petition states: “The military buildup will permanently change our island and our lives. The needs of all Guam’s people must come first, for this island is our home. It is critical that President Obama hear our concerns.”

We Are Guåhan will deliver the petition to the White House today both by electronic and paper copy.

There will be a community response on March 19, during Obama’s visit, to break the silence and demonstrate that the island’s people demand to have a voice in their future. Obama is not currently planning to speak with the people of Guam. We Are Guåhan hopes the 11,000 requests for a forum will change Obama’s plans.

For more information visit We Are Guåhan’s website at

New Earmark Rules Have Lobbyists Scrambling

New Earmark Rules Have Lobbyists Scrambling
New York Times
Published: March 11, 2010

WASHINGTON — Jolted by a sudden tightening of the rules, lobbyists and military contractors who have long relied on lucrative earmarks from Congress were scrambling Thursday to find new ways to keep the federal money flowing.

“The playing field has changed dramatically,” said Michael H. Herson, a lobbyist in Washington whose firm, American Defense International, represents numerous defense industry contractors who have already put in their requests this year for earmark money.

Those clients, who along with hundreds of other businesses got $1.7 billion last year through the controversial practice of awarding earmarks, will now be barred from receiving money under a new policy adopted Wednesday by Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.

House Republicans, seeking to outdo the Democrats in ethics reform, went even further Thursday by agreeing to swear off all earmarks, for both nonprofit and commercial organizations, for the next year.

“This is the best day we’ve had in a while,” said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has been a fierce opponent of earmarks — no-bid contracts directed by lawmakers — but had found little support among Republican colleagues before this week. “In terms of us getting this moratorium, the stars were aligned. What the Democrats did certainly motivated the Republicans.”

Senate leaders, however, have not rushed to follow the House, a situation that would set up a clash when the two chambers try to reconcile their spending bills.

No one was willing to predict on Thursday how that confrontation might play out. Meanwhile, defense contractors and the “K Street” lobbyists in Washington who often represent them were planning new ways of packaging their financing requests — and trying to keep the revenue coming in.

Some firms talked of partnering with hospitals, universities and other nonprofit organizations in seeking federal money, an idea that Congressional officials said might not be allowed under the new rules. Others said they planned to become more aggressive about applying directly to the Pentagon and other federal departments and agencies, and not Congress, for grant money. Still others are warning their clients to diversify their financing sources and become less reliant on Washington.

“For firms that have made their living on getting earmarks for their clients, this is a sea change,” said Joseph M. Donovan, managing partner at Nelson Mullins Public Strategies Group, a Boston lobbying firm that represents about 50 private and public clients. “It fundamentally changes their business model.”

Mr. Donovan said his company had anticipated a sharp cutback in earmarks because of the political mood in Washington and began taking steps to help clients navigate the new landscape. That includes hiring an in-house writer to help them apply for federal grants directly from executive branch agencies instead of Congress.

Because that grant money is usually awarded based on competitive bids, he said it would be harder for smaller companies with promising research-and-development ideas. Contractors will have to be “more strategic” in their thinking, he said, “because I don’t want to be in the position of telling them that things are being done through a wink and nod and you’re just going to get a million dollars.”

In the Senate, some lawmakers have defended earmarks as a necessary tool for Congress to exercise the power of the purse and influence federal spending. Supporters say that for every “Bridge to Nowhere,” the Alaska earmark project that became infamous five years ago, there are worthy projects that get less attention.

As one example, supporters pointed to the earmarking of tens of millions of dollars in the 1990s to General Atomics and other military contractors for early development of what became the Predator program, the unmanned drones now used frequently in airstrikes in Afghanistan. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, the Hawaii Democrat who leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that if the House ban on commercial earmarks had been in effect then, “we would not have the Predator today.”

Limiting earmarks to nonprofit recipients is not necessarily a cure-all. For example, Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat famous for his earmarking largess, set up the Concurrent Technologies Corporation in his district in the 1980s as a nonprofit research center for metalworking, and he helped guide more than $1 billion in defense earmarks to it before he died last month.

Executives at Concurrent contributed frequently to Mr. Murtha’s campaigns. The group has come under scrutiny by F.B.I. investigators looking into pay-to-play allegations against the now-defunct lobbying firm P.M.A., which represented Concurrent and other clients that got earmarks.

Whether earmark money will dry up complete

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Public Hearing Split on Changing Guam to Guahan

Hearing split on island name
By Dionesis Tamondong
Pacific Daily News
March 13, 2010

More than half a dozen people who testified in support of changing Guam's name to Guåhan said it would go far in preserving the island's indigenous culture

Others said Bill 331 was a waste of time, and the changes would unnecessarily cost the government of Guam and local businesses too much effort and money.

Some people suggested nixing the measure and letting voters decide in a referendum, complete with a thorough education campaign.

Educators, business owners, local activists and veterans were among those who spoke during yesterday's public hearing on Gov. Felix Camacho's proposal. The governor last month issued an executive order calling for agencies to refer to the island as Guåhan in order "to reclaim our indigenous name" and "reaffirm our identity as a people."

Camacho also has asked Guam's congressional delegate, Madeleine Bordallo, to initiate the change at the federal level. Until federal law makes the island's name change official, GovGuam will have to stick to Guam when it comes to formal communication.

Those who spoke for Bill 331, most testifying in Chamorro, said the name change would mark an important step in the island's self-determination and highlight the indigenous language and culture.
But some questioned whether Guåhan is truly the island's indigenous name, citing a University of Guam study.

"I would support this bill if, in fact, the name Guåhan is the indigenous name for the island of the Chamorros," Eloy Hara said. "But I also believe that something of this magnitude should be put in a referendum."

Ivan Carbullido said while the intent of the bill is admirable, efforts to change the name -- from government communications to business names -- would be quite expensive.

Sean Larkin said Guam's visitor industry and many companies have spent much time and effort branding the island, and those efforts could be diminished if the change were to take effect.

Larkin said instead of forcing a legal name change, which would be costly and distract from other more important issues, the island can use both Guam and Guåhan references as some local agencies and other countries currently do.

"There's no reason we couldn't use both names together," Larkin said.

For example, while Palau is the official name for the island nation, the traditional name, Belau, is regularly accepted for official and common references, said Hara, citing officials he spoke with during a recent trip to Palau.

Supporters and opponents of the measure received applause from their respective sides, but David Sablan, who called Bill 331 a waste of time, garnered applause from the entire audience after he spoke at the hearing.

The Dededo resident said he felt the bill was just a means for the governor to mark his legacy rather than a sincere step toward self-determination.

"We shouldn't even be discussing this bill right now. We should be discussing our political status," said Sablan, a local artist, Chamorro activist and Vietnam War veteran. "We have the right to change our name, but we don't have the right to govern ourselves."

When significant milestones are made toward the island's political self-determination, Sablan said he would be the first to support changing the island's name to Guåhan.

"Instead of Guam, maybe we should name the island Going ... because our governor, he keeps going and going," Sablan said, prompting applause and laughter from the audience.

Camacho is scheduled to be back on island this weekend.