Delegate Sablan Pushes For National Guard Unit In CNMI

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Report, mandated by Congress, shows feasibility of establishing unit

By Dennis B. Chan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 7, 2016) – As members of the U.S House Armed Service committee craft a Defense budget for 2017, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) submitted testimony last week asking that the budget authorize a National Guard unit in the CNMI and provide language the would require the Department of Defense to produce a report on the unit’s its implementation and funding needs.

Sablan, in his March 1 testimony, pointed to the National Guard Bureau report last August that found a unit feasible in the NMI. The study was mandated in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

Sablan said establishing a National Guard in the NMI would support the military’s goal of "rebalance" to Asia, increasing U.S. military presence in the "first line of U.S. soil in the Western Pacific."

Sablan said the National Guard unit would also give the NMI governor additional capacity to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies.

"Ours is one of only two jurisdictions nationwide that does not have its own National Guard," Sablan said, "a deficient sorely apparent in August of last year, when Typhoon Soudelor caused widespread damage and led the President to declare a major disaster in the islands."

Sablan added the "groundwork" for establishing a National Guard unit was already in place at the local level, pointing to a 2002 public law to authorize such.

"What we need now is federal action," Sablan said.

Sablan said, H.R. 3649, his bill to authorize National Guard units in the NMI would not require any funding nor impose any new requirements on the National Guard Bureau or the Department of Defense. It would simply include the Northern Marianas Island in the definitions sections of current law of what constitutes the Natioanl Guard, he said

On his second request—to have the DoD produce a report on how it will implement this National Guard unit—Sablan called this "proper next step" to the 2015 report, which found a guard unit in the NMI feasible.

Sablan believes the Defense secretary should report to the Armed Services committee its implementation plan, a report that should include details on force structure allocation, recruiting, and funding requirements.

This would enable the committee to "better understand how the Department would stand up a new National Guard unit, and how Congress could help," Sablan added.

Sablan closed his testimony by thanking the committee for its "keen eye" on the expansion of military activity in the NMI and for working with him as these plans develop.

"The military buildup and presence in the Marianas region will have long-term consequences for the people I represent," Sablan said, "and I appreciate the partnership of this committee in managing these developments in the best interest of my constituents and of the national security needs of our nation."

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