Guam - Former D.C. lobbyist Juan Carlos Benitez spoke to the Rotary Club of Guam today about the GUASA or the Guam U.S. Asia Strategic Alliance conference on the Guam buildup.
Former D.C. lobbyist Juan Carlos Benitez explained that GUASA felt it was necessary to hold the conference in order to educate those on capitol hill about why Guam is important strategically and why Guam needs funding for the buildup. "When you go to capitol hill they keep saying that the Governor of Guam, the Congresswoman of Guam, the Congressman of the Northern Mariana islands, the Governor of the Northern Mariana islands keep asking for all of this money to be released to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands because they're indispensable to the U.S. Well, I come from Mississippi and I can tell you Mississippi is indispensable for the U.S. defense and I can justify money coming to me. So, we needed somebody else that was a third party, third objective party to actually come in and start explaining to people in congress that it's not just what we think of our role in national security but it is what the national renown and known experts think of the role that this region plays in national security for the United States,” said Benitez.
Benitez says that they then tracked down some of the highest profile security experts for the region to bring to the conference so that they could see Guam firsthand for themselves. While Guam is being touted as strategically important, Benitez says most national security experts agree that the bases in other areas of Asia like Okinawa and Korea provide greater reach than Guam does. However, Benitez says Guam is advantageous for two reasons. First it is sovereign U.S. soil which means that the U.S. would not need to seek permission from any foreign government if an attack was launched from Guam. The second is that all fuel that is imported into Asia passes through Guam's military sphere of influence. "All fuel routes to Asia and China imports 85 percent of it's fuel...would pass through our circle so we basically could eliminate any fuel supply into Asian countries just because that's how the fuel lines run,” said Benitez.
While the Record of Decision for the Guam marine relocation is not due until 2015, Benitez pointed out to Rotarians that there are actually five other environmental impact statements for things like the use of other islands in Micronesia as well as the Northern Mariana islands of Tinian and Pagan. "A lot of people are wondering why is Pagan is so indispensable for this buildup as we move forward it is a key lynchpin to this entire buildup because you need to train your troops and live fire training and combined live fire training is almost not available anywhere else in the United States anymore and what we mean by combined live fire ranges is you get your troops to land on shore you get your pilots to be carrying live ammunition you get your ships to be bombing from ships using their bigger cannons. So that pilot is feeling for the first time the earth fall hitting his plate from underneath when he has a live bomb under there it's not a dud, its not practicing, its not a computer game,” said Benitez. The former D.C. lobbyist says that Pagan is the only island in the Marianas that the military can use for amphibious landings because it is the only one without a reef.