Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Guam delegate says island must
be included in missile defense planning

By Donovan Brooks
Guam bureau chief

FINEGAYAN — Guam must be included in national missile defense program planning, the island’s Washington delegate told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a letter detailing top defense issues facing the Pacific island.

In his letter dated Feb. 8, Del. Robert A. Underwood, D-Guam, told Rumsfeld, "I remain deeply convinced that Guam is being passed over when the discussion turns to (national missile defense)."

"I firmly believe that it is vital for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the (Defense Department) to support the inclusion of Guam and the other territories under the term "national" when considering (national missile defense)," Underwood wrote.

Any plan that doesn’t include Guam, Underwood said, would be viewed by those living on Guam as an abandonment of the principal that is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution — to provide for the common defense.

Another issue addressed in the letter was the cleanup of former military sites. Guam has served as a U.S. strategic area for more than 100 years, but particularly since 1944, Underwood said. The U.S. military has left a legacy of unexploded ordnance and other contaminants leading to 48 areas being declared formerly used defense sites (FUDDS) requiring cleanup.

An additional site where mustard gas and other chemical warfare training kits were found was uncovered in 1999. Underwood said he has asked the General Accounting Office to conduct an audit to determine how the Defense Department identifies areas with environmental contamination and how DOD records and manages the data.

In an interview last week, Underwood said his letter also highlighted the problems Guam encounters when trying to get back excess military land.

Beginning December 2000, Guam is legally first in line to receive any excess Defense property. Before that, other federal agencies had priority in getting the excess military land. But the rules governing the process have not been set up. Without such rules, any future land returns could be delayed, he said.