Monday, March 18, 2013

U.S. military eyes use of Tinian leased lands

BY ALEXIE VILLEGAS ZOTOMAYOR
Associate Editor / Reporter
Marianas Variety 
www.mvariety.com
 
SAIPAN, Nothern Marianas (Marianas Variety) — THE United States military is considering the establishment of live-fire and maneuver ranges and training areas in the Northern Marianas, especially on Tinian and Pagan, and it has indicated the full use of its leased lands on Tinian.

“To date, all Tinian preliminary alternatives require the use of all military leased land, including that which has been leased back to the CNMI government for agricultural purposes,” so stated the supplementary details in support of the notice of intent published in the Federal Register last March 14.
From left, USMC Col. Lawrence S. Loch, USMC Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton Jr., Tinian Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Don Farrell, Marine Forces Pacific executive director Ret. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Craig Whelden, USMC Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy and Special Assistant to the Assistant to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Col. William R. Costantini.  Photo by Allen Sandbergen
From left, USMC Col. Lawrence S. Loch, USMC Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton Jr., Tinian Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Don Farrell, Marine Forces Pacific executive director Ret. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Craig Whelden, USMC Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy and Special Assistant to the Assistant to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Col. William R. Costantini. Photo by Allen Sandbergen

The notice announces the preparation of an environmental impact statement as the U.S. Department of Defense is looking at existing ranges and training areas in the Western Pacific and how the Northern Marianas could meet the training requirements.

The notice stated that the intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or overseas EIS will evaluate the potential impacts associated with the preliminary alternatives for meeting Pacific Command Service Components’ “unfilled unit level and combined level military training requirements in the Western Pacific.”

The Department of Defense acknowledged in the notice that existing DoD ranges and training areas (RTA) and support facilities in the Western Pacific, particularly in the Northern Marianas, “are insufficient to support PACOM Service Components’ U.S. Code Title 10 training requirements for the region.

“The expansion of existing RTAs and construction of new RTAs will satisfy identified training deficiencies for PACOM forces that are based in or regularly train in the CNMI,” the notice stated.

DoD did indicate that such RTAs will be made available to the U.S. Forces and allies “on a continuous and uninterrupted schedule.”

Marine Corps Forces Pacific, designated by PACOM to take the lead in this regard, also announced scoping meetings in the CNMI: April 10, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Dandan Elementary School cafeteria; April 11, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tinian Gym in San Jose, Tinian; and April 12, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Carolinian Utt, Garapan, Saipan.

Tinian and Pagan

Based on the January 2013 Department of the Navy and CNMI Joint Military Training Requirements and Siting Study, it were found that of the 14 islands in the Northern Marianas, only Tinian and Pagan are capable of meeting unit level and combined level screening criteria, and could potentially satisfy most of the unfilled training requirements for the CNMI.

“Neither Tinian nor Pagan can support all identified unfilled training requirements alone; however, in combination, they present a variety of preliminary alternative RTA configurations,” the notice of intent for an EIS indicated.

In view of its scoping efforts, the Marine Corps Forces – Pacific developed alternatives to meeting the training requirements.

“Preliminary alternatives are the improvement, development and use of existing and new military training areas on the islands of Tinian and Pagan, to include surrounding U.S. and international water and airspace.”

According to MARFOPAC, the preliminary alternatives call for the use of all military leased lands on Tinian.

The U.S. Department of Defense currently leases 15,353 acres on Tinian: the Exclusive Military Use Area, or EMUA, 7,574 acres and the Leaseback Area, or LBA, 7,779 acres.

MARFORPAC also stated that the alternatives for unit-level training consider laydowns with and without relocating the IBB Voice of America facility on Tinian.

Another alternative, however, proposes no action — that proposed RTAs will not be constructed on Tinian and Pagan.

Studies 

A study made by the Institute of Defense Analyses concluded that the Mariana Islands’ strategic location in the Pacific Command area of responsibility “makes these islands a prime location to support forces throughout the AOR [area of responsibility].”

The same IDA study, although it noted that training deficiencies exist, recommended planning in analyzing the ability to construct new or expand existing training capabilities and support facilities in the Mariana Islands.

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review concluded that the U.S. should develop additional training capabilities for joint and combined forces in the Western Pacific to assure readiness of U.S. Forces to carry out military operations as well as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and maritime security.

It recognized too that the available land within the U.S. jurisdiction in the Pacific provided the potential for leveraging U.S. engagement with allied and partner militaries to build multilateral security relationships and operational capacity among countries in the region.

Another study, the “April 2012 DoN Training Needs Assessment: An Assessment of Current Training Ranges and Supporting Facilities in the U.S. Pacific Command Area of Responsibility,” examined further the Western Pacific deficiencies that confirmed the findings that the greatest training deficiencies exist in the Mariana Islands — Guam and the Northern Marianas.

High-level DoD officials

Last week, Tinian welcomed a second group of high-level DoD officials to the island.
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General John Paxton Jr. led the military contingent that arrived on Tinian March 15.

Paxton is the 33rd Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The group arrived on Tinian at 12:30 p.m. and left around 4 p.m.

Paxton, along with USMC Col. Lawrence S. Loch, USMC Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, USMC Special Assistant to the Assistant to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Col William R. Costantini, Marine Forces Pacific executive director Ret. Maj. General Craig Whelden, had a one-day “windshield tour” of the island.

Tinian Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff and local historian Don Farrell said, “Essentially they discussed points that will be raised during the Scoping Meetings in April.”

This was the second visit by high-level military officials to Tinian this year.

In January, a delegation from Guam and Hawaii arrived composed of Joint Region Marianas Commander and U.S. Pacific Command Representative-Guam Rear Adm. Tilghman D. Payne Payne; Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara, Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration Robert C. Martinage, USMC Pacific Executive Director Craig Whelden, U.S. Marine Corps Activity-Guam officer in charge Col. Scott Loch, Joint Guam Program Office director Captain Philip Old, Joint and Region Marianas regional planning agent Roy Tsutstui.

Farrell earlier told Variety that the officials who visited in January were impressed with the amount of land area available for training on Tinian and assured Tinian officials that with the decision being made that a large portion of the Third Marine Division will be stationed on Guam, there will be a much greater need for military leased lands on Tinian in the near future.

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