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STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT UNDERWOOD, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE
TERRITORY OF GUAM, ON S. 210 Mr. Chairman, Section 4 of S. 210 addresses the issue of the return of excess lands to Guam. I introduced similar legislation in the 104th Congress and again in the current Congress. Senator Murkowski, the Chairman of the Senate oversight committee for the territories, also included a Guam land return provision in the Omnibus Territories legislation which nearly passed the Senate last year. Both my bill and Senator Murkowski's bill are significant in that, for the first time ever, Congress will extend authority to the Government of Guam to have the right of first refusal of any real property declared excess by the Federal Government.
The Guam land return provision of S. 210 is important also in that it establishes a reasonable process for dealing with excess lands now and in the future. The lands taken were used to promote national security interests during and after World War II. Now that the cold war is over and the military has been downsizing in the past several years, there has been an assumption in Guam that the lands declared excess to military needs would be returned to Guam.
The passage of this provision of S. 210 is necessary in order to change current law governing the disposal of excess lands. Current law allows other Federal agencies to take any available excess lands in the Federal Government's inventory. This is nothing more than a repeat of the post World War II takings engaged in by the U.S. military. S. 210 would avoid this continuing injustice by putting Guam ahead of any Federal agency for acquiring these excess lands.
In previous hearings on land issues and in numerous meetings which I have had with military officials in Guam and in Washington, the military clearly stated that they are not in the business of being landlords once they declare lands excess to their defense needs. Once the declaration of excess is made, the title should transfer directly to Guam not to a Federal agency.
Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize two major concerns I have with the land provision in the Senate-passed version of S. 210.
Firstly, I strongly oppose the condition of transfer which requires that Guam pay fair market value for excess lands for other than public purposes. Neither my bill, nor the original version of S. 210, impose the payment of fair market value. Given the historical takings of land in Guam and the fact that real property is scarce in a small island such as ours, the people of Guam oppose the payment of fair market value. Requiring Guam to pay for the lands today ignores the historical land takings. At the time of the land takings, the island of Guam was under a military justice system. The civilian community was at a marked disadvantage and many of the land transactions were suspect. To continue to promote fair market value reflects a myopic view of the land takings on Guam and does not take into account the cultural values associated with the ownership of land.
When the Committee takes up this legislation, I will work to delete or amend the fair market provision. If this provision is not changed in committee or on the House floor, I will oppose the land return provisions of S. 210.
Secondly, I urge the Committee to clarify the definition of public benefit use. The legislative history for the return of excess lands to Guam should reflect that once title transfers to the Government of Guam, Guam makes the decision as to the appropriate public benefit use of the land. Such a decision may permit the consideration of local customs and local needs. Currently, S. 210 points to the statutory definition of public purpose found in Section 203 of the Federal Property Act and to other public benefit uses provided under the Guam Excess Lands Act (Public Law 103-339). What is not clear in the proposed legislation is what types of actions the Government of Guam can undertake to provide the resettlement of the local people who were displaced by the earlier Federal takings of land. We need to clarify whether the Chamorro Land Trust Commission can be the recipient of the returned excess lands and whether the commission can devise a resettlement program for original landowners which can adequately address the inequities of the original land takings.
The decision on what constitutes public benefit uses of the returned lands is properly the responsibility of the Government of Guam. Guam has local needs based upon local customs and values. This will provide Guam with the flexibility to devise a number of acceptable uses which will benefit the people of Guam. This also will put the original landowners' concerns among the mix of how Guam implements its land policies and its land use plan.
Mr. Chairman, the people of Guam must strongly object to the exemptions called for in Section 4, subsection (d)(1). This section deals with lands currently leased to the Coast Guard from the U.S. Navy, as well as lands they have identified for expansion. Over the past four years our people have endured the pain of a downsizing
military complex. It never occurred to many in Guam that the military would ever reduce its presence in the area. However, the Base Alignment and Reuse Committee (BRAC) ruling required the Navy to re-align its activities to become more efficient. Try as we could to save the only U.S. Naval shipyard in the western Pacific, SRF Guam was slated for closure.
Today, the fruits of a cooperative effort between Guam's Local Reuse Authority (LRA) and the Navy has resulted in the shipyard's conversion to a privately run facility. Over the course of several months, LRA and Naval officials worked in close cooperation to develop a reuse plan which would meet the needs of both entities. Both parties were quite aware of the regulations governing each step in the process as outlined in BRÂC law. BRAC law was created by the Congress as a means by which needs assessment reviews of existing military bases could be conducted without political influence. Both Navy and the LRA continue to work within this framework.
Part of the process in planning for the reuse of BRAC properties required the Navy to provide for Federal Screening which notifies other Federal entities of the Navy's intention to declare lands excess. This was in fact completed with no responses. It was not until well after the expiration of the screening process that the Coast Guard indicated its wish to acquire additional properties. With this knowledge, the LRA contacted the Coast Guard in writing with a proposal to enter into a long-term lease agreement at no cost for all the properties that the Coast Guard currently occupies as well as any additional properties they need, but apparently that has not satisfied them. Ownership of the property seems to be the only rationale for the Coast Guard's pursuit of a change in law calling for the exemption from the Federal screening process.
It is our view that the provision be denied. The issue is not whether the Coast Guard is deserving of the property. The issue boils down to whether they should be exempted from the provisions of law with which every community facing a base closure must comply. From Guam's perspective, the Navy made great efforts to become more efficient. Victor Wharf was declared excess and Federal screening took place with no expression of interest from any quarter. The Coast Guard has decided, after the fact, to acquire land and they come before Congress now with special interest legislation. This isn't right. It also opens Congress' door to similar legislation by other Federal agencies who have also missed the boat. The Government of Guam fully intends to cooperate with the Coast Guard; there is written documentation that bears this out. But Mr. Chairman, the Government of Guam feels that the long term needs of the Coast Guard would be better served if Guam retains ownership of the properties in question and grants the Coast Guard a long-term, no-cost lease.
Mr. Chairman, on S. 210's provision regarding compact-impact reporting, there is general agreement that the current procedure governing the preparation and submission of the report of adverse impact as a result of the Compacts of Free Associations has been extremely problematic for all the insular territories. This amendment would now shift the responsibility for the preparation of the report of adverse impact, from the Administration to the Governor's of any Territory; Commonwealth and the State of Hawaii. The proposal identifies the Department of Interior as the agency responsible for filing the report with Congress to include comments from the administration. The Department of Interior would be responsible for funding, either directly or through their technical assistance mechanism, a census of Micronesians no greater than five (5) years from each decennial United States census or every fifteen (15) years, at a cost of not more than $300,000 in any year.
Mr. Chairman, the people register their objection to the proposal as currently written. Shifting the burden for the preparation of the report from the Department of Interior would be acceptable if it included the provision that would mandate that the report be filed with the appropriate authorizing and appropriating committee in Congress with a recommended level of funding. This amendment fails to identify a mechanism where impacted jurisdictions would petition for the financial reimbursement of any adverse impact. The mere filing of the report without identifying the appropriate committee in Congress to accept and dispose of the report findings leaves much to assumption. Furthermore, given the long interval between census taking (30 years); limiting funding for the census to no more than $300,000 may be too restrictive in that it is hard to project economic forces that may adversely affect the Department of Interior's ability to perform the census.
Finally Mr. Chairman, I would like to announce my intention to seek a transfer of title of property currently held jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and the Guam Community College. I will pursue this in the form of an amendment to S. 210. The property in question was deemed excessed by the Department of Defense years ago. Title was granted to both the U.S. Department of Education and the Guam Community College for a new campus. Although Guam Community Col
lege continues to plan construction for this new campus, it currently does not have the financial resources to begin immediate construction. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education has given the Guam Community College several options. The U.S. Department of Education has suggested that Guam Community College give up joint title of the property or be assessed rental fees. It is important that the property is safeguarded for the future use of the Guam Community College and that may be accomplished by a clear transfer of title.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your consideration and your willingness to engagę Guam in these matters. I appreciate your disposition concerning Federal lands and hope that the legislation will be properly amended.
Mr. HILL. I thank the gentleman. I will now introduce our first panel of witnesses: Senator Daniel Akaka, Congresswoman Patsy Mink, former Delegate Ben Blaz, and when he arrives, Congressman Xavier Becerra.
I'd like to remind the witnesses that under our committee rules they must limit their oral statements to 5 minutes, but their entire statements will appear in the record. We'll also allow the entire panel to testify before questioning the witnesses.
The Chair will now recognize Senator Akaka to testify.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE DANIEL K. AKAKA, A UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF HAWAII Senator AKAKA. Thank you very much, Chairman Hill, and I thank the members of the committee for holding this hearing. I am delighted to be here this morning to add my voice to this bill.
I also want to welcome our friends from Guam, The Honorable Carl Gutierrez, Governor of Guam; also, The Honorable Joseph Ada, former Governor; The Honorable Paul Calvo, also a former Governor; The Honorable of course, good friend up there - Robert Underwood, the congressional delegate, and The Honorable Ben Blaz, the former congressional delegate, and many others from Guam, those for and those who are probably against this bill. It's great to have all the voices here this morning.
Mr. Chairman, I'm here to urge the members of this committee to support Guam's efforts to improve its political relationship with the Federal Government by seeking Commonwealth status. I come here as a fellow Pacific islander and someone who cares deeply about the political future of the island of Guam and the people of Guam.
Much has been said over the last decade about unresolved provisions in the Guam Commonwealth Act, yet, little has been said about the contributions and sacrifices that the people of Guam have made to this country and to the need for the Federal Government to be honest about Guam's political future. It is incumbent upon the Congress to deal frankly with the people of Guam and let them know where things stand and what can and cannot be done at this point in time.
The people of Guam should not be held hostage by changing U.S. negotiators under different administrations. While the Clinton administration has made progress on Guam Commonwealth negotiations, discussions on political status should be conducted in a more timely fashion. It is notable that Guam is represented today by several Republican and Democratic leaders, including present and past Governors and delegates. Such bipartisanship on an issue should be commended.
It should also send a signal to the Federal Government that the people of Guam are united, united in their quest for Commonwealth status. As this nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the U.S. acquisition of Guam next year, it would be fitting if we provide the people of Guam with a better process to pursue Commonwealth negotiations. I look forward to working with you and other Members of Congress to move this process forward.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I would also like to add my support for provisions in S. 210, of which I am a co-sponsor, which provide for the transfer of Federal excess lands in Guam. Congressman Underwood and Governor Gutierrez have done a tremendous job advocating for the transfer of Federal excess lands to the people of Guam. With one-third of Guam controlled by the Defense Department, I think that its people have more than shouldered their burden as part of national security in the Asia-Pacific region.
But fair is fair. Guam is just a little over 200 square miles in size. It is 30 miles long and 9 miles wide. It is high time that the Federal Government provide the Government of Guam with the flexibility to utilize lands that are no longer needed for national security purposes. I have visited Guam numerous times since World War II. Most recently, I visited the island last year with Senator Murkowski. I'm impressed with the level of political and economic development which has allowed the local government to be less dependent on Federal assistance, while providing greater economic opportunities for its people. This is what our country is all about.
I encourage members of this committee to visit Guam and find out for yourselves how Federal policies affect this Pacific territory. You will find a proud and industrious people, and will come to better understand the frustration that they face with the Federal Government.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to provide support to Guam's pursuit of Commonwealth status and for the Federal excess land provisions in S. 210. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HILL. I thank you, Senator Akaka. The Chair now recognizes Congresswoman Mink. STATEMENT OF HON. PATSY T. MINK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF HAWAII Mrs. MINK. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee. I'm pleased to be here today to lend my support to the consideration of H.R. 100, the Guam Commonwealth Act, sponsored by my dear friend and colleague, Congressman Robert Underwood, who serves as Vice Chair of the Asian-Pacific Congressional Caucus.
The right of self-determination is among the most sacred rights in our country, itself founded upon the principles of freedom and liberty. The Guam Commonwealth Act seeks to implement a decision by the people of Guam to pursue a greater self-determination through a new Commonwealth status with the United States.
Over a decade ago, the people of Guam voted in a referendum to seek Commonwealth status, and since 1988 Guam's delegates to the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation to implement this decision. However, a final resolution to their request has not been ac
complished. Many have worked on this effort—Mr. Underwood's predecessor, both the Bush and Clinton administrations-but Guam's question of Commonwealth status remains unresolved.
I understand that this is not an easy task. The issues raised in this effort are not simple, and a final agreement between the United States and Guam will have lasting effects, not only for the people of Guam, but for the United States as a whole and the other territories and entities which continue to associate themselves with the United States.
This is precisely why this issue should be deliberated in the Congress. We have the responsibility to consider this proposal brought forth by the people of Guam, assess its impact, not only on Guam, but the entire United States, and, finally, come to a conclusion on Guam's pursuit for a Commonwealth status.
The final implementation document of Guam's Commonwealth status must reflect Guam's desire for greater self-determination and self-governance, balanced with their desire to remain a part of the United States, including all the rights and responsibilities that go along with this relationship.
Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, you have a challenging task ahead, and I urge you to move forward in this deliberation on H.R. 100 and work toward the implementation of the wishes of the people of Guam. Thank you very much.
I apologize, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, that I need to leave, as I am serving as a ranking member on another committee matter before Education and the Workforce, but thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Mink follows:] STATEMENT OF HON. PATSY T. MINK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE
STATE OF HAWAII Mr. Chair, and Members of the Subcommittee, I am here today to lend my support to the consideration of H.R. 100, the Guam Commonwealth Act, sponsored by my dear friend and colleague, Congressman Robert Underwood.
The right to self-determination is among the most sacred rights in our countryitself founded upon the principles of freedom and liberty. The Guam Commonwealth Act seeks to implement a decision by the people of Guam to pursue greater selfdetermination through a new Commonwealth status with the United States.
Over a decade ago the people of Guam voted in a referendum to seek Commonwealth Status and since 1988 Guam's Delegate to the U.S. Congress has introduced legislation to implement this decision. However, a final resolution to their request has not been accomplished. Many have worked on this effort-Mr. Underwood's predecessor, both the Bush and Clinton Administrations—but Guam's question of Commonwealth status remains.
I understand this is not an easy task. The issues raised in this effort are not simple and a final agreement between the United States and Guam will have lasting effects not only for the people of Guam, but for the United States as a whole, and the other Territories and entities which continue to associate themselves with the United States.
This is precisely why this issue should be deliberated in the Congress. We have the responsibility to consider this proposal brought forth by the people of Guam, assess its impact not only on Guam but on the entire United States, and finally come to a conclusion on Guam's pursuit for Commonwealth status.
The final implementation document of Guam's Commonwealth Status must reflect Guam's desire for greater self-determination and self-governance, balanced with their desire to remain a part of the United States, including all of the rights and responsibilities that go along with this relationship.
Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee, you have a challenging task ahead. I urge you to move forward on your deliberations on H.R. 100 and work toward the implementation of Guam's Commonwealth Status. Thank you.