GUAM INTENSIFIES SECURITY EFFORTS

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (September 11, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---Guam Delegate Robert Underwood said he has been pushing for the creation of a "Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team" on Guam, similar to more than 30 teams created elsewhere in the United States to deal with potential terrorist attacks.

But it's a hard sell because of Guam's small size, Underwood said, despite the fact that the island's remote location makes it difficult for other mass destruction teams to respond quickly to an attack here.

According to the National Guard Web site, there are 32 authorized Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams throughout the United States. The first 10 teams were created in 1999.

The 22-member National Guard teams work with local officials to assess suspected weapons-of-mass-destruction attacks, to give advice on appropriate action and to coordinate the arrival of additional military forces if needed.

Underwood, who is a Democratic candidate for governor, said the National Guard units are given the resources to deal with chemical, biological and radiation attacks.

"Guam, because of its size, it's kind of hard to make a justification for that, but on the other hand, because of its distance from other U.S. areas, if we had a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack in Guam, we wouldn't be able to get the WMD team here for several hours from Hawai‘i, and by that time we potentially would have experienced a greater calamity," Underwood said.

Guam's response

As it stands, Guam's first response to a terrorist attack would be by a 10-man special response unit led by the Guam Fire Department's hazardous materials team, with two environmental protection agency officials.

The team is part of the Special Response Unit, a multi-agency task force created after the terrorist attacks.

The government of Guam is using $328,000 in federal money to equip the team with protective suits, detection units and decontamination units, but the equipment has not arrived, said Joe Javellana, Civil Defense administrator.

Additional federal grants totaling $1.2 million will be used to purchase protective suits for all Guam police officers.

"Our goal is by the end of FY 2003, every single law enforcement first-responder will have a PPE for themselves -- a PPE, communication system, detection system and a decontamination system," Javellana said.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the governor reactivated the island's Civil Defense Advisory Council, which created a response plan for the island.

As a result of the council's meetings, a Web page was created to help disseminate information; an inventory has been created of government and private-sector resources, such as vehicles; and a list of military reserve members working in GovGuam was written to help agencies plan for times those employees are called to active duty.

Airport

Increased security at the airport is one of the most visible, lasting changes after the terrorist attacks, and the newly created Transportation Security Administration now is focusing on improving airport service, in light of heightened security measures.

The security administration hired Adolf Sgambelluri as Guam's federal security director, and the administration plans to hire 154 additional airport security screeners, who will be trained and working by Nov. 18.

"We have the existing (scanning) equipment. Hopefully, we'll have new ones in place by the end of the year. Right now, we're doing surveys," Sgambelluri said. "A couple of folks have been contracted to get this equipment in -- they are Lockheed Martin and, of course, Boeing."

Sgambelluri said he has recommended increasing the number of passenger screening stations, and Boeing has been contracted to assess other areas of the airport as well.

"I would like to see, instead of two checkpoints, I would prefer to have it four checkpoints so that we can move the passengers a lot faster than what it is now," Sgambelluri said. "In terms of the check-in down at the ticket counters -- Boeing Aircraft Industries is the one contracted to oversee and do a survey of that particular area and will be making recommendations to TSA. They're basically looking at the overall coordination, ... and how the passengers are being accommodated. Again, the objective here is to move passengers faster than what has been in the past."

Nationwide, transportation security officials also are considering streamlining the security process, eliminating some questions asked of passengers, for example.

Sgambelluri said the anniversary of the terrorist attacks will bring a heightened state of alert.

"We are very concerned about what's coming up (the anniversary). The people that want to destroy our nation, our democracy, are the type that we cannot keep our guard down. There's been a heightened alert for the airport, and nationally also," he said.

Bases

It has been much more difficult for non-military personnel to gain access to the island's Air Force and Navy bases because of tightened "force security" measures that went into effect after Sept. 11.

Property owners at Jinapsan, at the northern tip of Guam, have been cut off from their property because of tighter security at Andersen Air Force Base after the terrorist attacks.

The Star Sand tourism operation laid off 128 employees after access to Jinapsan Beach was cut off by the military.

The Navy Hospital complex in Agana Heights built a new, larger gate entrance, which is staffed by additional security workers.

The Navy in late 1999 decided to move the main gate at Naval Station closer to Marine Drive in order to enclose all of the base facilities. The decision was made after a visit to Guam by the Joint Chiefs of Staff antiterrorism group.

"I don't think any part of America will ever be as safe again as it once was," Underwood said. "Certainly there was a lot of initial fear that Guam would be a prime target. That apparently is not the case, but we've got to remain vigilant and guard against any potential terrorist threat."

"Obviously, the military buildup -- the continuing importance of Guam as a strategic area -- means that we will be more noticed, but that's part of our task, that's part of our responsibility."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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