‘RICK’S COLUMN’

Final Programmatic Agreement: Section one

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Posted on Feb 15 2021
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“The Final Programmatic Agreement Between the Commander, Joint Region Marianas and The Guam State Historic Preservation Officer, Regarding Military Training and Testing On and Within The Surrounding Waters of the Island of Guam,” commonly referred to as the “PA,” is a 16-page document made up of three sections: “whereas,” “stipulations,” and “signatories.” There are four separate appendices to the Final PA. 
This document is supposed to take the place of the 2009 PA that expired over a year ago. The Guam Legislature is currently waiting on an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office in response to a request put forth by Guam Sen. Telena Nelson. 

Euphemistic, politically deodorized, military controlled

The first section comes across as lifeless, over-sanitized, dry, and vague. Not once is the word “Chamorro” referenced.   

The word “whereas” appears 12 times in the first section. This section basically says that the military: 1) controls the Marianas Islands chain with a focus on Guam, 2) that an assessment was made about what environmental damage will be created in and around Guam from military operations, 3) that the word “undertaking” refers to military activities that will produce environmental damage on and offshore of Guam, 4) that these environmentally damaging activities are being done to maintain American dominance in the region, 5) that these actions will somehow protect the United States and Guam, 6) that the military conducted surveys to find out what kinds of damage will take place from military actions using standards that may or may not address Guam’s unique environment, 7) that military training will damage or destroy rare resources, 8) that similar kinds of state sponsored exercises in violence will be repeated over and over to the degree that the military was prompted to produce a PA, 9) that repetitive training for going to war will damage or destroy rare resources and that the PA is somehow supposed to bring some kind of agreed upon resolution to the military’s destructive practices, 10) that the Navy is letting the governor, two Guam-based entities and one other federal organization that things will get damaged or destroyed, 11) that the Navy told another federal entity that the degree of rare resource damage will be so extensive that it necessitates federal regulatory guidance on provisions that pertain to historic properties, and, 12) that these provisions have triggered the application of two specific sections of a law that was originally passed to acknowledge the importance of preserving so-called national heritage resources, followed by a statement that refers to the above referenced parties as “signatories, invited signatories, or concurring parties to the PA…”

This “whereas” section concludes with a sentence that begins with “now, therefore” that basically says that the military and the Guam State Historic Preservation Officer agree to the idea that the military will continue its state sponsored preparations for violence that will bring about damage and destruction, in accordance with making sure that American national laws are properly adhered to. 

More public input and hearings may be needed as more questions arise

More public input and hearings may be needed because the language used in this section is vague, incomplete, and mystifying. If the military is attempting to cleverly sow additional confusion, frustration, anger and distrust amongst our Chamorro families, friends, and relatives, a case can be made that they are doing an excellent job.

Here are some questions: what is the definition of an “executive agent”? Does the governor of Guam have the option to bypass this executive agent and go to the source—the Navy secretariat located at the Pentagon to be a signatory? If not, why not?

Do all of our Chamorro families, friends, and relatives truly understand the significance of references made to a three-mile distance from the shore? And what precisely does the phrase “shore baseline” mean and how is this shore baseline distance derived? What precisely does the Navy mean when it says that it “analyzed the impact of military training and testing on and within surrounding waters” [without having to refer to a separate pdf document]? Why is there no mention made of military produced pollution to the oceans, reef areas, land, and sub surfaces? 

Section one talks about the criticality of “military readiness to personnel safety and to the defense of the United States, including and in particular, of Guam.” What is the definition of “personnel” here? Does this word “personnel” include all villagers and all our Chamorro families, friends, and relatives? Is Guam really being defended or is this about the military defending the billions of dollars of resources located exclusively on DoD installations? If this language is to mean the defense of the entire island of Guam, why does Guam not have a hardened underground nuclear bomb and fallout shelter infrastructure in place, in every village to help protect the lives of our ancient Chamorro Pacific Islander families, friends, and acquaintances? 

Signatories? Parties?

Let’s talk about signatories. What does this really mean? What is the significance of a signatory? Why are there “signatories and invited signatories”? What’s the reasoning behind having two types of signatories? What does it mean to have “concurring parties”? Why is the elected governor of Guam’s signature below the admiral’s signature? Why are there no signature lines for representatives from the Guam Legislature or the Mayors Council of Guam? 

Stipulations? Provisions?

Let’s also talk about stipulations. What precisely does this mean? What is the difference between a “stipulation,” a “clause,” and/or a “provision”’? What are the consequences—political, social, and legal—of having stipulations contained in the Final PA as opposed to something else?

More demystification is needed

More needs to be done to further demystify the Final PA and the language contained in this first section because the language is vague and sanitized. Until our ancient Chamorro Pacific Islander families are completely comfortable with understanding what a PA is, and what it is not, true island and national security cannot be attained. 

Rick Perez | Author
Rick Perez used to serve in the U.S. military and has work experiences in public policy research and public affairs. He is passionate about national security and geopolitics and runs a newsletter called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For questions or comments, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.

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