The media coverage of two meetings last week between federal officials and Governor Calvo at Adelup and the Legislature in Hagatna left some convinced—based on federal assurances—that some of the toughest military buildup issues have been resolved.
Let’s splash a little cold water on our faces and soberly reconsider whether that’s the case.
The Governor got most of the attention when he accepted Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work’s claim that the revised plan for firing ranges -- still to be located off Route 15 -- “takes Pagat off the table.”
To accept this, you have to buy the definition of Pagat as the cave and village site alone and that the only issue is whether these locations can be visited without fear of being wounded or killed during live fire exercises. The basis for the Navy claim is that the range ‘arc of fire’ is being shifted northward over the rest of the Pagat area. This is far, far from “taking Pagat off the table.”
The issue, and I believe the large majority of our people agree with me on this, is that we don’t want ranges off Route 15 that require taking additional Guam land. Once again, for those who are listening, we believe the military should use the land it already has.
We were pleased that Secretary Work hinted at least that some of the local military missions might be changed to free up land for other uses. Let’s include firing ranges on the list of such uses!
Speaking of land, Secretary Work informed us that DoD will adopt a ‘net negative’ land strategy for the buildup. This means that at the end of the buildup, the military will have less land than it had at the beginning. Unfortunately, he provided no examples of possible returned land. This ‘strategy’ is hard to square with the DEIS and the ROD and as far as I am concerned amounts to happy talk. If you are a businessperson, would you accept such vague assurances and proposals as the basis for a deal?
The one-day federal visit and the various proposals presented to our government were aimed at getting us to sign off on a “programmatic agreement,” which would put the military in the driver’s seat in handling historic sites and artifacts that turn up during construction.
Secretary Work claimed that contrary to many reports here, there has never been a deadline for signing the agreement. This came as a surprise to me and I am sure it did as well to our State Historic Preservation Officer, Lynda B. Aguon.
Yes, no pressure to sign the PA, the Secretary said, except there are $1 billion plus in Guam projects that can’t start without that signature. I call that blackmail.
It is completely understandable that Governor Calvo, new in office, would like to resolve the various problems with the buildup on his watch, but I must remind my former Legislative brother that we must remain wary and read and ponder such proposals before we leap.
Beyond being a good host, we’ve got huge responsibilities to all of our people to get this right. It would be best to empanel the Guam First Commission to deal with such approaches. As President Reagan used to say, “trust, but verify,” particularly when it comes to proposals from Washington about the buildup.
The less publicized meeting between legislature and the Navy officials was eventually held at the legislature’s hearing room. The public and the media were able to watch in person the interaction of these officials with the Senators.
Undersecretary Work said he would like to have private meetings with Guam’s leadership on buildup issues in the future. I, of course, am not comfortable with any closed meetings on the buildup and plan to keep the people of Guam informed of all discussions and interactions on the buildup that I am part of.
Senator Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to email@example.com