House passes 2015 defense act
Friday, December 5th 2014, 4:01 PM ChST
Guam - The military buildup continues to move forward, as today in our nation's capitol the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.
Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo expressed her support of NDAA conference bill for fiscal year 2015- passed by the House on Friday. "This bill finally lifts the restrictions on the obligations and expenditures of government of Japan district contributions and US military construction funds that directly support the realignment of marines to Okinawa to Guam," she added.
Bordallo says the FY15 NDAA not only marks a significant milestone in moving the buildup forward but is also critical to our overall rebalance to the Asia Pacific Region. "The actions we take in this bill fulfill the US Congress obligation to keep this progress on track and more importantly we finally demonstrate to our allies in Japan that we value their leadership and role in moving this realignment forward on their end," she said.
Bordallo says the bill provides for a one percent increase to our service members and restores $818 million in cuts to the readiness operations and maintenance accounts. The bill also authorizes $162.4 million in military construction projects on Guam and requires the Defense Department to develop a strategy that will outline the department's efforts to support the security aspects of the rebalance strategy.
Military Oversight Chair Senator Frank Aguon Jr. says the bill looks very promising, saying, "It's very positive for our island community, it's very positive for the buildup, it would create opportunity but in the same token we need to also address some of other local issues," he said.
The bill also authorizes the Navy and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to enter into an agreement for the placement of a surface danger zone above the Ritidian unit of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. The matter became a highly contentious issue for families of Ritidian including second generation descendant Catherine McCollum, who said, "As far as Madeleine's position, she's not supporting the Ritidian families and not supporting the return of properties."
McCollum and other Ritidian families initially felt blindsided by Bordallo's introduction of HR-4402 back in April this year. The amended version of HR-4402 includes measures to maintain the purposes of the Wildlife Refuge and requires the Navy to pay for mitigations to offset impacts of placing an SDZ over the Wildlife Refuge.
She said, "So there's a lot of issues that our people are very concerned about that it's going to affect Guam, and it's already starting. I'm not even going to have to tell you about the noise pollution while I was watching my dad up there in Yigo, it's so bad."
And while the NDAA now heads to the senate for consideration, McCollum says she and her family will continue to fight for Ritidian, adding, "My family has always been straightforward and very vocal and we will continue to be vocal and we will continue to remind our legislatures, congresswoman and governor they need to address this very seriously."