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Thursday, April 17, 2014

US bill eyes NMI National Guard

The Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that cleared the U.S. House Armed Services Committee last week includes a provision requiring the U.S. Department of Defense to report to Congress on the feasibility of establishing a National Guard unit for the CNMI.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) thanked Committee member Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) for offering the necessary amendment during the all-day markup of the bill, H.R. 1960.

DoD will also be required to report on having an American Samoa Guard unit.

“The Northern Marianas and American Samoa are the only two U.S. jurisdictions without their own Guard to respond to typhoon, tsunami, earthquake, or other natural or man-made disasters. I introduced legislation in the last Congress to create an NMI Guard unit, but cost concerns got in the way,” Sablan said.

A DOD study will reveal what those costs are and whether the CNMI has the infrastructure and manpower to support its own National Guard.

The 2014 NDAA authorizes $552.1 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $85.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. It also maintains an automatic 1.8 percent annual increase in troop pay, maintains current TRICARE copayment and fee structures, and includes provisions to prevent sexual assaults in the military.

The NDAA is expected to be considered by the full House this week.

In 2009, the Guam Guard started recruiting eligible individuals in the CNMI to join the Guam Army National Guard. At the time, Guam Guard said the ultimate goal is to establish a unit in the CNMI.

Guam has the highest membership per capita of all Guard organizations in the United States: over 1,300 Guam Air and Army National Guard members for some 160,000 residents. This means 0.81 percent of Guam’s population are active Guard members.

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