13 of Guam’s 15 senators have endorsed a resolution that calls on Governor Lou Leon Guerrero to ask the military to “pause” all construction o…
There are livelihoods at stake if and when the military pauses construction of the Live-Fire Training Range Complex, which is one of the facilities needed to bring in almost 5,000 Marines to their future Guam base.
When projects are paused, workers' paychecks get cut or are placed on hold. Some workers will be furloughed or let go. The Guam stores and small service subcontractors that supply materials and services for these projects will not get paid. When their checks from these projects stop coming in, the Department of Revenue and Taxation will see its tax collections drop. When GovGuam's tax collections drop, they make up for it by raising taxes.
Meanwhile, impacted workers and subcontractors' families will curtail their spending in the local economy. Or worse, they might transport their skills away from Guam where their services are needed.
These are just a few examples of the impacts 13 Guam senators will cause by pressuring the governor to ask the Department of Defense to halt the projects. The Pentagon doesn't have to listen to the governor, but these senators may need to be reminded that this military buildup was signed between two nations – Japan and the U.S. – under the Obama administration in 2012. Now, under Trump, there are some sectors in the administration that want to shift defense spending from one program or military installation to another. If Trump administration decision-makers are looking for an excuse to transplant some parts of the buildup or funding away from Guam, these senators have just given them a way out. There has been lobbying by other states to invite defense projects to their home states.
The military has accommodated partial pauses to some of the projects. Certain places where ancient artifacts were found have been cordoned off. Construction has been halted at the site of a rare tree and its surroundings. The government of Guam has agreed to accept money – $12 million – for the construction of the Guam Cultural Repository, which is being built at the University of Guam to showcase and properly store artifacts and other culturally and historically significant projects found during the buildup construction.
Despite these efforts, the senators want the buildup stonewalled. Let's not kid ourselves: Halting the firing range project is stonewalling the military buildup.
The Guam Daily Post asked senators at their press conference Monday morning: What about the impact to the island economy? What about people who would lose their income? Wouldn't the government of Guam lose tax income, too?
Without giving a response, Sen. Telena Nelson, who is leading the resolution that calls for a pause on the firing range construction, stood up at the press conference she called Friday morning, signaling the end of media questions.
Sen. Telo Taitague did volunteer to answer, but her response showed a lack of care or understanding for those in the private sector whose incomes and jobs will be hurt by what the senators are trying to accomplish.
"As far as economic impact – if it's bad it's justifiable, because we're protecting our culture," Taitague said.
"If there is a pause and it's the military that's pausing it, then the economic impact will happen to them."
In the real world, the impact of halting the firing range project ripples way beyond the military base gates. In the 1990s, when tourism and defense spending slowed, many families felt it. Some left Guam.
As for the major military contractors, they will be fine doing other projects in other places and for other clients.
For the little guys and gals in the local economy whose jobs and services are tied to the ongoing military buildup, a pause will hurt their pockets right away. They don't have a variety of other projects to rely on, unlike the major defense contractors who can pack up and do jobs elsewhere.
They will be. There's no doubt about it and the senators we elected know it.