GUAM RED-FACED OVER MILITARY MISCUE

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By David V. Crisostomo

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 18) – Gov. Felix Camacho is expected to soon rescind a recently signed executive order that states the government of Guam seeks the potential return of military excess land and that the government opposes the military's presence on island.

While not saying that the executive order was in error, governor's spokesman and Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority acting Administrator Tony Lamorena yesterday said the executive order will be revised so that it clarifies that the government of Guam does not oppose the military's presence and buildup on island.

At issue is a line in the June 13 executive order, which was signed shortly before the governor left for the Horn of Africa, that reads: "Whereas, the government of Guam in proceeding with its efforts at land return in no uncertain terms oppose military presence in Guam."

Lamorena yesterday said, "We're not saying it's in error, but some people are reading it different. So we are going to make it more clear."

He said the government does not oppose the military's presence on Guam. Lamorena pointed to a proceeding line in the order that reads: "Whereas, on the contrary, the government of Guam desires an increase in military presence and are proud of being an integral part of U.S. military strategy in the Pacific Region and its efforts to obtain excess military lands are simply recognition of the finite amount of land available for development in a small island environment."

Lamorena said he will be talking to Camacho about revisions to the order and that the administration is trying to figure out how the governor can rescind the order and sign a new one prior to his return from the Horn of Africa, where Camacho is visiting troops. Camacho is scheduled to return to Guam June 19.

The poorly worded executive order and the approach the government is taking at the potential return of excess land sends a mixed message to the Pentagon about Guam's desire for more military, said Jim Adkins, a member of the Guam Chamber of Commerce's Armed Forces Committee and president of the East-West Rental Center.

The executive order has the potential to undo eight years worth of work by the island's business community and elected officials to encourage more military on Guam, Adkins said.

"I think the whole order should be rescinded. (The administration) should come out with something very clear," Adkins said. "This order is confusing to everyone."

Adkins said the administration should not try to address any potential return of excess land through the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process.

The executive order establishes a Guam Steering Committee for BRAC 2005 to provide coordination of Guam's approach to the potential realignment of military lands on Guam.

Lamorena said there is at least 2,300 acres of land that may be designated by the military as possible excess land. He said the administration wants to include those properties through the BRAC 2005 transfer process. He said those properties can be returned to original landowners or be economically developed.

"This is by no means an attempt to block military growth," Lamorena said. "We're not demanding any property back. All we are saying is that if the military isn't going to need that property, we are asking that 'can you please return it?'"

Lamorena said the steering committee was formed so that the government of Guam can prepare its case to the BRAC Commission, which will have hearing on July 14.

Adkins said such a method was used in the past BRAC process and that eventually led to the reduction of the military here.

"We've been working on this for eight years, trying to get the military to come back and provide jobs to local people," he said. "Today, we have this mixed message and we are very concerned about this.

Increasing military presence on Guam is welcome news to many residents, who say the economic impact will be positive for Guam. A Guam Chamber of Commerce survey showed more than 80 percent of Guam's registered voters support having more troops on the island.

The island relies on military spending for about 30 percent of its economic activity. Several high-level military officials have visited the island within the past year, emphasizing Guam's strategic military importance and the likely expansion of military activities here.

There has been some opposition from such groups as the Colonized Chamorro Coalition, who say the island should not rely on the military for a development boost, but should instead focus on a mix of industries.

Adkins said the administration needs to consult with the Chamber and the Legislature before it proceeds with its plans to include the potential transfer of excess lands in the BRAC process.

Speaker Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, yesterday said the Legislature was not consulted about the executive order and expressed his concerns about potential fallout as a result of the order.

He said the executive order needs to be rescinded immediately and that Camacho needs to convene a meeting with members of the Legislature and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo's office to discuss the matter further before issuing another order.

He also questioned the administration's desire to address potential land return through the BRAC process, adding that Guam law already has provisions that determine how such land returns are handled should any excess lands be identified.

Chamber Armed Forces Committee Chairman Lee Webber, publisher of the Pacific Daily News, yesterday said, "I think it is truly unfortunate that the governor has chosen this method and this timing to address this issue.

"I think it was ill conceived and poorly phrased," Webber said. "As Samuel Clemens once said, 'The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.'"

June 20, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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