Thursday, February 4, 2010

There is no Guam build-up battle in Washington

Guam's U.S. Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo made some comments on the Guam build-up at hearing this week of the House Armed Services Committee. Her office issued a press release about it.

I put in italics my take on her press statement.

Rep. Bordallo wrote:

Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo today addressed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing today in Washington, D.C. on the Fiscal Year 2011 defense budget.

It's to her credit that she attended this hearing. Her attendance was probably optional and Guam's build-up, within the scope of the overall defense budget, is a small line item and of little interest to most in Congress. Bordallo, in a manner, showed the flag.

During the hearing, Congresswoman Bordallo shared concerns raised by members of the community at recent town hall meetings regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

This means that the concerns on Guam about the build-up have reached her. Her comment may be a sign that she recognizes the opposition's depth.

Specifically, Congresswoman Bordallo expressed her continued opposition to the use of eminent domain by the Department of Defense (DoD) for land acquisition and suggested that the DoD should look into building within their existing footprint on Guam.

Is eminent domain the problem or the military's expansion of land it controls? It's really not clear from this, but suggesting that the U.S. build within its existing footprint is something even build-up supporters are likely to back.

Congresswoman Bordallo also expressed concerns regarding the aircraft carrier berthing and the potential damage to coral reefs during the dredging process.

The aircraft berthing is only one of many, many problems cited in the DEIS and by the build-up's opponents. Why focus on that one alone?

Secretary Gates stated that the Department of Defense would work with Guam stakeholders to “have transparency and for us [Department of Defense] to take into account the views of the people of Guam.”

Gates is blowing smoke. Of course the DOD will say that it will take into account the "views of the people of Guam."

Admiral Mullen further stated that these, “are major moves that we want to get right.”

'...get right,' in what respect?

“I along with Chairman Skelton and others have repeatedly stated that we need to get this military build-up done right,” Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo said today.

Bordallo is expressing clear support for the build-up.

Bordallo continues: “The Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the Department of Defense, in its current form, insufficiently addresses concerns raised by our local government, our community, and stakeholders on Guam."

That's a strong statement, but it could have been much stronger. Bordallo could have raised the long list of issues created by the build-up. She could have told Gates of the deep fears that the build-up will erode the culture and quality of life on Guam. She could have suggested that the build-up may exceed the capacity of Guam, environmentally and culturally, to handle it.

I took this opportunity today to share some of these concerns with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Both Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen agreed that this military build-up must be done right, and most importantly, that the concerns of our community must be taken into account before we get to a Final Environmental Impact Statement.”

Bordallo is trying to represent the concerns of those who oppose the build-up without worrying its supporters. The opponents have little to hope for.

What Bordallo could have said is that the DOD's decision to allow only 90 days to comment on its 10,000 page build-up impact statement is insulting and a living example of U.S. colonialism, and something that no mainland community would tolerate.

She could have said:

"I urge you, Sec. Gates, to pull back on the build-up and to set aside the funding for it in the 2011 budget until independent environmental and economic studies are completed and the people of Guam have had a chance to really assess the build-up's impact. There is nothing so urgent that requires the people of Guam to give up so much so quickly and there is no reason why they should have to."

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