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Federal law mandates feasibility study for Am. Samoa Natl Guard unit

fili@samoanews.com

The U.S. Defense Department is now mandated by federal law to conduct a feasibility study with the results to be available next year, regarding the establishment of National Guard units in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — the only two U.S. jurisdictions without such units.
 
The mandate is outlined in provisions of the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014” signed into law last week Thursday by U.S. President Barack Obama, after being approved by the U.S. Congress.
 
Provisions for the feasibility study were submitted by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, who said earlier this month — in a statement — that the “presence of a National Guard unit in American Samoa will be a first responder to the Governor of American Samoa for disasters and local emergencies.”
 
Faleomavaega has worked on this issue since 2004 with the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye and in 2005 with Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, former General of the 9th Regional Support Command. 
 
In making the feasibility study determination, language of the bill states in part that the U.S. Defense Secretary shall, among other things, consider the allocation of National Guard force structure and manpower to the two territories in the event of the establishment of a unit there; and federal funding that would be required to support pay, benefits, training operations, and missions of members of a unit as well as the equipment, including maintenance, required to support such force structure.
 
Also to be considered is the presence of existing infrastructure to support a unit, and the requirements for additional infrastructure — including information technology infrastructure — to support such unit.
 
Additionally, the ability of a unit to maintain unit readiness and the logistical challenges associated with transportation, communications, supply/re-supply, and training operations and missions must be considered.
 
The Secretary of Defense has 180 days after the bill is enacted into law to notify the congressional defense committees of the results of the feasibility determination. If the Secretary determines that establishment of a unit in American Samoa or CNMI  is feasible, the Secretary shall include in the notification among other things:
 
•     A determination of whether the executive branch of American Samoa and of CNMI has enacted and implemented statutory authorization for an organized militia as a prerequisite for establishing a unit of the National Guard, and a description of any other steps that such executive branches must take to request and carry out the establishment of a National Guard unit.
 
•     A list of any amendments to current provisions of federal law that would have to be enacted by Congress to provide for the establishment of units in the two territories.
 
•     A description of any required Department of Defense actions to establish a unit in the two territories.
 
BACKGROUND
 
Faleomavaega raised the issue of a National Guard in American Samoa in January of 2009 when he wrote to top military officials and the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye seeking support for the establishment of a detachment unit of the Hawai’i Air National Guard in Pago Pago.
 
In March of the same year, Faleomavaega wrote to General Craig R. McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., for support in expediting the process of a detachment unit in Pago Pago.
 
A unit in Pago Pago was also discussed by then Gov. Togiola Tulafono and federal officials during a meeting in February of 2009 in Washington D.C.  Other political leaders in the territory at the time were supportive of a local unit of the National Guard because it not only provides job opportunities, but because it would also be available to assist the local government in times of disaster.
 
Togiola had discussed having a unit of the Hawai’i National Guard based in American Samoa during meetings in 2005 with then Hawai’i Governor Linda Lingle.



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