Guam Bill

By John Liang / February 1, 2011 at 4:41 PM

The newly appointed ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee plans to try to advance amendments to expand the scope of the Sikes Act -- a natural resources law that applies to the military -- as part of the next defense authorization bill, Defense Environment Alert reports this morning. Specifically:

The effort could extend coverage of the Sikes Act to include state-owned National Guard installations -- something the Defense Department had sought in the last Congress -- and could expand an invasive species management pilot program used by the military in Guam to all U.S. military installations.

Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), who on Jan. 19 was named ranking member of the Armed Services readiness subcommittee, introduced a stand-alone bill -- H.R. 5284 -- last year that would have amended the Sikes Act, extending its provisions to state-owned National Guard facilities and expanding the invasive species management program. While that bill did not pass despite efforts by DOD to include the Guard measures in the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, Bordallo intends to address the substance of H.R. 5284 in the context of the FY-12 defense authorization bill, the congressional staffer says.

Bordallo's 2010 bill specifically would have extended Sikes Act provisions to state-owned Guard installations, applying the same requirements to these installations to develop and implement integrated natural resources management plans (INRMPs) that are already required at federally owned military bases.

DOD had proposed similar language to Congress last April as part of the FY-11 defense authorization bill, which would have given nearly four dozen Army National Guard bases the ability to substitute military-derived, legally binding INRMPs for Endangered Species Act (ESA) critical habitat designations should those lands be deemed key to an endangered species. Such INRMPs must be deemed by the Fish and Wildlife Service to give a benefit to the species if used as a substitute for an ESA critical habitat designation.

Currently, military installations with significant natural resources must implement INRMPs that protect species, wetlands and other resources. Congress granted DOD the INRMP substitution ability for its federally owned bases many years ago, after the department argued that environmental requirements like critical habitat designations were placing too many hurdles on the military's ability to train. But a DOD analysis last year found that Guard bases did not meet the statutory definition of a "military installation."

DOD suggested technical changes to Bordallo's bill late last Congress -- too late to try to get them into the defense authorization bill -- which was passed in late December, according to the congressional staffer. In addition to the Armed Services Committee, the measure also falls under the jurisdiction of the House Natural Resources Committee, which sponsored a hearing on Bordallo's bill last May, the source notes.

DOD Environmental Management Director Maureen Sullivan testified before the House Natural Resources insular affairs, oceans and wildlife subcommittee last May in support of Bordallo's Guard provisions. In written testimony, she said the ability to develop Guard INRMPs would allow for "more efficient and effective natural resources management" at these bases. In addition, without the amendment, Guard bases could not compete on a level playing field for funds, according to a DOD source.

Bordallo's 2010 bill would also have expanded an invasive species management program for Guam to include all U.S. military bases, according to Bordallo's floor statement last May. DOD expressed concerns with the bill's initial wording, with Sullivan warning that having a statutory requirement to address invasive species "in the INRMP may overburden the process. This would impede the development of INRMPs that would otherwise have substantial beneficial impact," she testified.

The DOD source said a slight tweak was needed to the language, but added that the amendment is nonetheless important because invasive species control currently is not considered a "must-fund" item under the military's budgeting process. The amendment would be helpful in order to avoid mission impacts, the source said, citing the example of the yellow star thistle, an invasive plant that has blanketed 23,000 acres of land on Ft. Hunter Liggett, CA, making some lands unusable for military training.

In her Jan. 19 press release announcing her appointment as ranking member on the readiness subcommittee, Bordallo says she would continue her focus on overseeing the military's massive buildup on Guam, noting the readiness panel's jurisdiction over infrastructure and environmental issues regarding the buildup. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) is the new chairman of the readiness subcommittee.

The Congressional Research Service published a report last October outlining the major issues of moving thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Here's a taste:

In 2006, the United States and Japan agreed on a "Roadmap" to strengthen their alliance, including a buildup on Guam to cost $10.3 billion, with Japan contributing 60 percent. Primary goals were to start the related construction on Guam by 2010 and to complete relocation of about 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. In Tokyo on February 17, 2009, the Secretary of State signed the bilateral “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning the Implementation of the Relocation of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Personnel and Their Dependents From Okinawa to Guam” that reaffirmed the "Roadmap" of May 1, 2006. The two governments agreed that of the estimated $10.27 billion cost of the facilities and infrastructure development for the relocation, Japan will provide $6.09 billion, including up to $2.8 billion in direct cash contributions (in FY2008 dollars). The United States committed to fund $3.18 billion plus about $1 billion for a road.

However, in September 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) became the ruling party. This political change raised uncertainty as Japan sought to re-negotiate the agreement, even while the United States sought its implementation. The dispute over the location on Okinawa of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) to replace the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma raised implications for the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam. In January 2010, Japan promised to decide by May on the location of the FRF. Then, North Korea’s attack on South Korea’s naval ship (Cheonan) in March, and China’s deployment of its Navy near Okinawa which confronted Japan’s forces in April, catalyzed Japan to resolve the dispute in favor of deterrence. On May 28, the Secretaries of Defense and State and their counterparts in Japan issued a “2+2” Joint Statement, in which they reaffirmed commitment to implement the 2006 Roadmap and the 2009 Agreement. In July, the Navy issued the final Environmental Impact Statement on the buildup on Guam, while planning to start construction by the end of FY2010. The Navy estimated that Guam’s population would increase by a total of 30,190, including 8,552 Marines.

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010 (enacted as P.L. 111-84 on October 28, 2009) authorized the first substantial incremental funding for the relocation of about 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam, but conditioned upon the Defense Department’s submission to Congress of a Guam Master Plan. Among a number of provisions related to Guam in the legislation and conference report, Congress designated the Deputy Secretary of Defense to lead a Guam Executive Council and coordinate interagency efforts related to Guam. Congress also required a report on training, readiness, and movement requirements for Marine Forces Pacific, with a sense of Congress that expansion of Marine Corps training should not impact the implementation of the U.S.-Japan agreement on relocation from Okinawa to Guam. Congress authorized a total amount (including for Defense-wide, Army, Navy, and Air Force) of almost $733 million.