Guam News - Guam News
Guam - The Legislature's Buildup Committee Chair Senator Judi Guthertz spoke to the Guam Chapter of the Association of Government Accountants today [Wednesday] about the Guam military buildup.
Her remarks were entitled "Straight Talk on the Buildup".
READ Senator Guthertz's remarks in FULL below:
Senator Judith P. Guthertz
“Straight Talk on the Buildup”
In keeping with the tone of the title of this brief address, I am going to get right to the point, by describing what I am thinking after spending several years as Chairperson of the Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup.
It is time to take the local politics out of the Guam military buildup!
Anywhere you turn these days—either the mainland U.S. or Guam—you can’t avoid being confronted with messages that attempt to twist almost any matter into the service of a political objective. On our island, the course of the Guam military buildup hasn’t been neglected in this regard. Unfortunately, this has hijacked a rational approach to buildup costs and benefits to Guam in favor of a feverish policy of apportioning blame within the community when plans made far away disappoint interested parties.
Thanks to an atmosphere poisoned by partisan concerns, it’s been necessary to remind the public—over and over again—of what I had to say on the Guam buildup about five years ago:
Quoting myself now, “I want it well understood that I fully support the movement of the 8-thousand Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam. As a patriotic American and a devoted Guamanian, I believe that we will welcome our Marines ‘home’ with our noted hospitality.”
The numbers and details have changed since 2007, but the feelings in my mind and heart remain the same.
My years in public life and the study and teaching of public administration have convinced me that we need to proceed in these matters in a more calm and thoughtful fashion. In your line of work, these undertakings are reduced to strings of numbers that explain what’s going on and guide its progress. We must translate more of this approach to daily public life.
France’s World War I Premier Georges Clemenceau once said—rather loosely translated in English—that war is too serious a thing to entrust to Generals. I would update this by saying that the Guam military buildup is too serious a thing to entrust to Generals or for that matter, politicians, and I of course speak as a member of the latter group.
Our American system of military defense, as it has evolved, widely divides responsibility for such matters, particularly when it comes to spending money to accomplish its goals and objectives. The system is intended to make all the parties respect and respond to the public interest.
Broadly speaking, the Generals propose, the elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere dispose of the proposals and thankfully for the taxpayers, an Army of accountants apply spreadsheets to track the resulting gigantic expenditures from the national treasury. Guam politicians? Well, we hope our letters to Washington get read, our comments to visiting lawmakers at least get listened to and, most important, that we’re representing the best interests of our constituents. We can only wish we had the broad influence on outcomes attributed to us by some parties here.
When it comes to something with the complexity of the 2006 U-S-Japan agreement that is driving the Guam buildup, we’re dealing with a gigantic juggernaut fueled by billions of dollars, that often proceeds on its own course without much seeming reference to local needs.
When I call for removing local politics from the Guam buildup, I am not talking about removing politics in general from the process. There is nothing more political than making decisions that divide up available resources among the people dependent on them. The politics I am talking about is the means by which those who happen to live in Guam have something to say about what happens here. I am not talking about those with big money at stake and those with military objectives to accomplish, but about the everyday folks who will be here long after those carrying out the buildup are gone.
Fortunately, our system has some tools—though they are certainly not perfect—for translating the big picture to the local picture where we all live. In the last few weeks you’ve been watching one of them play out as the Joint Guam Program Office searches for a satisfactory location for the firing range complex that is essential for training the U.S. Marines to be relocated here from Okinawa.
As you’re all aware, we’ve been through this before. The NEPA process that eventually led to the buildup Record of Decision showed us the importance of local input in an undertaking as sweeping as the Guam buildup. What’s at stake are finite island resources that will be shared by every person, military or civilian, forever. That’s why I refuse to heed the advice I’ve heard often from the backroom—give them, that’s the military, whatever they want and negotiate later. I think it’s terrible advice and I hope none of my fellow politicians who have heard it feel the same way. Following it would violate our duty to our constituents.
I am pleased to say that this time around with the buildup, it pretty obvious that—as the military would say—lessons have been learned. The briefings and the recent ‘scoping’ meetings on the range complex have reflected a more open and thoughtful approach to the buildup. I am hearing concerns for our shared environment expressed in the new proposals that are welcome.
It is unfortunate that so many questions about the Guam military buildup remain unresolved. I think it’s important that we all acknowledge that in the rapidly changing world of 2012, time and circumstances may change abruptly. Perhaps the political changes in Washington prompting a hard second look at the military budget for the buildup were predictable, but who could have anticipated the disastrous tri-fecta of earthquake, tsunami and near nuclear meltdown in Japan last year?
I urge that we give the current version of the buildup both our close scrutiny and our support as the present process helps us resolve its problems.
This is, after all, our National Defense and, bottom line, regardless of local problems and concerns, we are all in it together!
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