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Fena, firing ranges & funding

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - "This area of the world requires our focus and attention," announced Guam congressional delegate Madeleine Bordallo. The importance of the Asia Pacific Region was once again the focus of discussion before the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness in the nation's capitol, from the emerging threats from countries like China and North Korea, Guam's strategic value couldn't have been underscored enough.

"Our strategic location in the Pacific can never be overstated," she said. And with the tragedy in Japan it only elevated the island's importance. "Just this past weekend several global hawks based at  Andersen Air Force Base conducted sorties over Japan to assist region mapping destruction cause by the tsunami," she added.

Appearing before the subcommittee of which Bordallo serves as a ranking member, were U.S. Marine Corps Director for Strategic Plans and Policy for the U.S. Command Major General Randolph Alles, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Schiffer and a familiar face and frequent visitor to Guam, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Installations and Environment Jackalynne Pfannensteil.

During the hearing Bordallo continued her push for the DoD to consider another alternative site for a live firing range other than using a portion of GovGuam land along Route 15. "I would caution that it may be very difficult for the DoD to reach a deal that will be approved by the Guam Legislature; who ultimately approves the leasing or sale of Government of Guam lands."

Bordallo would also question Secretary Pfannensteil about the integration of Fena with GWA. The National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision allowing for the sale of Fena back to GovGuam at a price tag ranging around $300 million. The congresswoman said the model for integration of water should be based on the process  used several years ago when Guam took control over the Navy's power system, which was based on a number of performance standards which were met, but more importantly

"This was all done at no cost to the ratepayers on Guam," she said.

The NDAA also requires the military have a seat on Guam's Consolidated Commission on Utilities, which local leaders have said is completely offensive. "Can you indicate where else in the United States the Navy is a voting member on a utility board or any other local governing body isn't this a cumbersome requirement for the Navy, or any service and intrusive to the federal state local relationship. Pfannenstiel said, "I don't know of any place that it would be."

During today's hearing though it was Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa who asked the question that one could say is in the minds of many on Guam as to whether the Japanese government would still stick behind funding $6 billion out of the $10 billion price tag for the Marines relocation. "Given the disaster given the catastrophe what are the probabilities that they're going to pay for the move," she said.

Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary Schiffer responded that's highly speculative. Bordallo said, "So have you heard an affirmation that even if they've got this critical situation where they're going to be rebuilding a huge part of that nation that they're still going to continue with the commitment to the United States. Schiffer responded by saying, "The discussions that we've been having with the Government of Japan in the past few days have been how to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis.

"The situation at the Fukishima Daichi nuclear power plant. Once we've managed to deal with the management of the immediate consequences to the thousands of people that have died, the hundreds of thousands that are  internally displaced and the ongoing situation with the n8cearl power plant I'm sure we will have those discussions and fully confident the government of Japan will continue to be positively engaged."

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