VIDEO: GAO Team on Island Assessing Impact of Buildup on Guam

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Guam – The investigative arm of the U.S. Congress known as the Government Accountability Office [GAO] is on Guam conducting interviews with various island leaders and agencies on the Guam military buildup.

They are here to asses the infrastructure improvements that will be needed outside the fence to support the military buildup. The GAO team has already met with the governor and some Senators.

 

While they’re here they will also meet with GuamEPA, OPA, GFD, GPD, GDOE, DPW, DPHSS, SHPO, the Port Authority of Guam, GPA, GWA and the CCU. And they are slated to tour the northern waste water treatment plant as well.

Guam buildup office director Mark Calvo says, “The senate said GAO go out and validate and look at infrastructure requirements outside of the fence line on Guam as it relates to the Pacific realignment.”

Calvo says one of their main goals is to evaluate GovGuam’s ability to fund the needed infrastructure improvements off base. This is where Calvo says they made sure to present one unified voice to the GAO making it clear that GovGuam needs help in funding infrastructure improvements that are required for the buildup. “Again the message is we expect the Department of Defense to fund their share of impacts outside of the fence line,” said Calvo.

Calvo says that the major questions the GAO asked have to do with what the external challenges are for GovGuam with regards to planning for the buildup and funding the necessary infrastructural improvements. “We identified in unison that the external challenges is an obvious one and that is mixed messages from the Department of Defense and the U.S. government in commitment to the buildup. There’s been a number of changes, a lot of setbacks,” said Calvo.

They asked the legislature the same questions. Speaker Judi Won Pat responded saying that it was difficult to plan when Guam’s government doesn’t know yet what the federal government’s plans are. this is further exacerbated by the fact the plans keep changing. The buildup was originally to bring 8,000 marines and 9,000 dependents but now those numbers have been scaled down to 5,000 marines and 1,300 dependents. “So it’s kind of hard to plan. I told them, can you imagine if we had planned at the height of the beginning of all this discussion when we saw what businessmen have done in preparation for the military buildup. We saw what happened also when the Governor wanted to borrow money to pay for income tax returns and then we were counting on money coming in as a result of the military buildup. Can you [imagine] if we did especially that where we made all the investment and then nothing happens? Where is that going to put our government?” asked Speaker Won Pot.

The speaker says she recommended a full blown congressional hearing on the Guam military buildup that would involve all stakeholders including the leaders of Guam in order to make sure that everyone is on the same page. She pointed to examples in the past when they dealt with federal officials who didn’t seem to be very well briefed on the Guam buildup. “We would get federal officials on the other end of a teleconference speaking very slowly and thinking we don’t speak English and then would say things like oh so how do you think the country of Guam will handle this? We think that ambulances are really important, that you should have that because it’s going to help, I mean that’s the kind of individuals that the government has been working with,” said Speaker Won Pat.

  

[L-R: Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz, Ophelia Robinson, GAO; Speaker Judith T. Won Pat, Ed.D.; Laura Durland, GAO; Adam T. Hatton, GAO; Michael Arbogast, GAO and Sen. Rory J. Respicio]

READ the letter from Speaker Won Pat to the GAO below:

April 23, 2013

U.S. Government Accountability Office
Government Accountability Office
441 G St., NW
Washington, DC 20548
Phone: (202) 512-3000
Email: contact@gao.gov

Re:
GAO Meeting – Guam Buildup

Håfa Adai:

Please find enclosed my response to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) as requested. It is clear that your main concerns center on general external and internal challenges Guam faces in preparing for the proposed U.S. realignment of forces from Okinawa to Guam and our capacity—or lack thereof—to efficiently find the means of financing the resulting impacts of this action.

Over the past six years, GovGuam has attended meetings and submitted information citing the same concerns I address below as our internal and external impediments to moving forward with the Buildup. And, although we strongly encourage a continuation of the conversation between the Federal Government and GovGuam through meetings like these, we need more assurances that from this point forward, there will be a new approach to improving collaboration between our governments as well as solidifying the plans for the Buildup.

Though Guam’s position in support of a realignment done right has always been clear, concrete plans for the realignment itself have always been obscure. As I mentioned in my response, Guam’s inability to adequately plan for a realignment plan that continues to change is, rooted in and compounded by, the urgency to improve off-base infrastructure in spite of reaching our debt ceiling.

There are a multitude of factors—many of which are not addressed here—that contribute to our inability to prepare for the realignment. However, I cannot stress enough how a basic means of communication and strong effort toward collaboration will bring immense change in preparing for a realignment done right. That being said, I look forward to future meetings such as these, where we can demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that the people of Guam are informed, heard, and well-prepared for any realignment plan.

Saina Ma’ase`,

Speaker Judi Won Pat 

READ the Speaker’s responses to the GAO questions below:

Office of the Speaker – Responses to GAO Request for Information Regarding the Department of Defense’s Realignment Proposal

I. What are the key external challenges affecting the Government of Guam’s ability to plan for the realignment and Buildup?

I. Response: The key external challenges affecting the Government of Guam’s ability to plan for the realignment and Buildup are rooted in the shifting nature of the Department of Defense’s proposed realignment and the lack of a concrete plan of action dating back to the scoping process. Such inconsistent representations of Buildup plans effectively disable the Government of Guam’s capacity to plan for any future implementation of the proposed action.

Key External Challenges:

* In regards to the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) proposed Buildup, the main external challenge that GovGuam faces is the fact that the fruition of the Buildup itself is dependent upon the bilateral agreement and decisions between the Federal Government and the Government of Japan—over which GovGuam is not afforded decision-making authority. Aside from being unable to determine whether or not the Buildup will even be implemented, the very lack of financial assurances for subsequent impacts places GovGuam in a poor position to effectively source funding for the action.

The realignment of forces from Okinawa to Guam was—until recently—wholly dependent upon the status of the Futenma Relocation Facility. As such, local planning on the “Buildup” was based on speculative timelines, evolving deployment variables, and unknowable funding requirements. These
circumstances are best demonstrated by three separate “scenarios” of the Buildup presented by DoD:

o The first scenario represented by DoD required no increase in the military’s land footprint.
o The second scenario required massive land acquisition along with expanded water, wastewater, electricity, housing, healthcare, and road capacity—all
within a compressed three-to-five year timeline.
o Finally, DoD presented a third scenario purporting a realignment of 5,000 personnel fully executed within the next seven years.

We acknowledge that recent decisions made by the United States Government and the Government of Japan have significantly departed from the Navy’s 2010 Record of Decision. This acknowledgement unseats many of the planning documents created by the Government of Guam before 2010.

The lack of a concrete plan for realignment, along with a potential refined scope of the Buildup, further raises a legitimate fear for additional delays. We are well aware of the legal implications that will arguably be triggered under the National Environmental Policy Act5 if any new approach significantly deviates from the Department of the Navy’s (“DoN”) Final Environmental Impact Statement (“FEIS”)6 and the Record of Decision (“ROD”). Although a plan reducing the federal footprint will naturally result in less impacts and mitigation preparation, the case brought against the Navy in a dispute over its FEIS on Pågat Historic Village is telling of the potential for yet another lawsuit resulting in the preparation of a supplemental environmental impact statement (“SEIS”).

II.  What are the key internal financial and public management challenges affecting the Government of Guam’s ability to plan for the realignment and Buildup?

Response: Generally, the key internal financial and public management challenges affecting GovGuam’s ability to plan for the realignment include an
inability of the territory to obtain both greater public financing for necessary infrastructure capacity and the human resources necessary to plan for
inorganic growth once a plan is in place.

According to the GAO, “[t]he Government of Guam would be largely responsible to obtain funding for needed for off-installation infrastructure projects.

These projects include road, water and sewer, electric power, and potentially other infrastructure improvements. DOD and some non-DOD agencies
could augment the Government of Guam’s revenue sources to fund such projects by contributing additional funds through existing intergovernmental grant processes that could add to federal government costs.”

Thus, as conditions precedent to the fruition of the Buildup, GovGuam was presented with specific challenges—which derive from the aforementioned
external challenges—involving the improvement or establishment of five (5) primary areas projected to be indirectly and directly impacted by the Buildup: 1) wastewater infrastructure, 2) a cultural repository, 3) a Center for Disease Control (CDC) Level II Public Health Lab, 4) Port of Guam Authority (“Port”)infrastructure, and 5) surface transportation infrastructure.

Key Internal Challenges:

* Wastewater Infrastructure:

Issue: Under the ROD, both the Federal Government and GovGuam acknowledged that additional water and wastewater infrastructure would be
necessary to support the realignment. Though the Guam Waterworks Authority (“GWA”) has made significant investments to meet the Island’s organic growth, no federal funding has been provided in anticipation of realignment-related growth.

For instance, the Federal Government’s proposals to use federal grants or Congressional appropriations for wastewater improvement have proven
fruitless: just last month, Congress, through House Resolution 933,13 effectively removed $120 million in funding to improve Guam’s wastewater
treatment plants from primary to secondary treatment.

Additionally, Congress’ passage of Public Law 112-239did not incorporate the House provision, which would have authorized the Secretary of Defense to assist GovGuam in meeting the costs of providing increased municipal services and facilities associated with the realignment.

At present, Anderson Air Force Base discharges its wastewater into the Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant. Thus, any inorganic population growth accompanied by the Buildup will tax the already overburdened Northern water lens—the island’s sole aquifer. Military bases throughout the island may lose mission capability without access to water and wastewater discharge.

Moreover the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s insistence on Secondary treatment may cause water rates to reach an unsustainable high.

o Local Action:
* GWA is presently meeting the island’s organic growth needs related to water and wastewater. However, it cannot meet any surge growth needs related to the realignment without federal assistance: according Chairman Simon Sanchez of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, GWA recently
determined that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s insistence on secondary treatment may increase the average residential water bill by
approximately 200% a month.

Though secondary treatment may be an organic need, surge growth increases the burden placed on the GWA system in a matter not previously
conceived.

* A Cultural Repository

o Issue: In anticipation of the impacts on cultural resources the Buildup would have on the island, DoD committed to seek funding for the construction of a cultural repository in the Programmatic Agreement (“PA”).15 Under the terms of the PA, DoD would seek Congressional authorization and appropriation for the fiscal year 2012 budget. If Congress did not authorize the funds for the construction of the cultural repository, DoD agreed to reinitiate consultation with the parties to the PA within thirty (30) days of the proposed mitigation of the realignment’s cumulative effects.16 Congress did not approve the funds requested. Over a year has passed, and no steps have been take to address the lack of a cultural repository as agreed upon.

o Local Action:
* Public Law 29-14717 – specifying the depository for all historic properties
* Public Law 30-22818 – authorizing a bond for the construction of a Cultural Educational and Fine arts Facility (“CEFF”). A portion of the CEFF will function as a repository, but the existing funding will allow it to meet inorganic growth related to the realignment. At best the realignment may significantly decrease the CEFF’s repository lifespan.

CDC Level II Public Health Lab
o Issue: Under any realignment scenario, Guam will become a focal point for regional job seekers and foreign laborers. For this reason, both the Federal Government and GovGuam have acknowledged that the Island must have the ability to test for and contain various communicable diseases, namely due to an increase in migration. According to the Office of Economic Adjustment, “$12.868 million is requested for construction of a Guam Regional Public Health Laboratory… [which] is necessary to [] provid[e] detection capabilities for the increased supplies, construction materials, etc. related to the military Buildup and protection capabilities for island workers.”19 Without federal assistance, Guam’s financial position prevents it from upgrading a CDC lab, thereby exposing both the military and civilian populations of Guam to significant health risks.

Port Authority of Guam infrastructure

o Issue: Given that Port Authority General Manager, Mary Torres, stated that “[n]inety percent (90%) of all goods arriving on island transit through the Port of Guam, the only commercial port on island,”20 it is undisputedly in need of improvements. Under every realignment scenario proposed, both the Federal Government and GovGuam acknowledged this fact. However, though GovGuam has and is taking significant steps to upgrade Port operations, the Federal Government has not identified funding sources directly related to realignment-related growth.

o Local Action:
* Acquisition of cranes and waterfront stabilization
* Public Law 31-14521 – authorizing the Port to enter into negotiations for the acquisition of cranes necessary for Port operations. Passed on November  17, 2011.
* Bill 86-32 – authorizing the Port to waive sovereign immunity in order to satisfy the approval of a $10 million commercial loan for a) wharf repair, b) a new top loader, and c) the replacement of the Port’s financial system. Introduced on April 9, 2013.22 

* Port General Manager, Mary Torres reported that the Port sought grants and loans to fund the Port’s Modernization Plan23 with $54.5 million in loans issued by the USDA in October 2010.24 However, this amount of financing is insufficient to address projected realignment impacts to the Port.

Surface Transportation infrastructure
o Issue: The execution of the Defense Access Road addresses a critical surface transportation need irrespective of the realignment. However, any
inorganic growth resulting from the realignment will require additional federal assistance.

o Local Action:
* Though the GovGuam is not in a position to deal with inorganic surface transportation needs, the Department of Public Works (“DPW”) has expeditiously executed major improvements to various routed roads and bridges (i.e. Route 8 expansion & Central and Southern Bridge Retrofitting).

III. What additional information does the Government of Guam need from DoD and other federal agencies to effectively plan for meeting Buildup needs?

Response: The Government of Guam needs a complete plan for the realignment to include the units to be deployed, their schedule, and the schedule for initiation and completion of needed Capital Improvement Projects.

IV. What lessons has the Government of Guam learned with regard to preparing for the Buildup, i.e., coordinating with DoD and other federal agencies, developing costs estimates, and identifying and requesting funding?

Response: We need high-level officials from the White House to steer the Buildup requirements at the community and Congressional level. Military planners should work with these officials and focus on the requirements and needs of the Marine Force and proposed installation and serve to validate these requirements. But, it should be left to members of the Obama Administration to shepherd the process through to fruition. A significant problem is that major actions taken at the recommendation of federal counterparts (i.e., excessive bond borrowing, hyper-employment, overbuilding would place the financial burden completely on our local government and we would be in a serious economic crises as a result of Buildup delays. Already some of our bond borrowing presentations have cited the Buildup as potential source of increased revenue for debt service.

Furthermore, the Governor initiated a Civil-Military Task Force (“CMTF”), which studied the various needs to support the Buildup. We find it unfortunate and detrimental to realignment plans that the CMTF did not operate as designed in that the military did not participate to the extent envisioned.

V. What, in your view, can be done to improve the coordination process between federal agencies and the Government of Guam?

Response: See response to question IV.

VI. What legislative efforts have been taken to improve Guam’s tax collection efforts?

Response: In the last three fiscal years, the Legislature has added dedicated legal counsel to the Department of Revenue and Taxation, increased enforcement personnel, and created statutory incentives to grow private industry. Examples include the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses Act and the Guam Power Authority’s 2020 Renewable Energy Resources Plan.

Additionally, Guam has not been able to force DoD compliance with local fuel tax laws, resulting in multimillion- dollar losses to GovGuam’s General Fund25. Because GovGuam is also unable to collect taxes for liquid fuel sold at on-installation vendors it continues to suffer from an eroding tax base.

VII. Has the Legislature considered or initiated any deficit reduction legislation?

Response: Yes.