NDA Act 2014 includes feasibility study provision for National Guard unit in AS
In a vote of 350-69, the U.S. House approved late Thursday afternoon the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2014, which includes a provision for the Defense Department to conduct a feasibility study for 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.
Provision on the National Guard unit was language presented by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni who told a congressional committee in May that he has been in discussions with the ASG and they have expressed great interest in establishing a unit in American Samoa.
“This comes as a necessity for the American Samoa Government after reviewing and restructuring response plans for state emergencies as a result of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis,” Faleomavaega said at the time.
He recalled the 2009 tsunami that caused devastation to American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga and pointed out that the local Army Reserve Unit could not be mobilized or activated immediately because such a decision had to be made by the Pentagon.
The Congressman believes that much more could have been done to help, save, and support local residents during the disaster if only then Gov. Togiola Tulafono was able to activate such a critical tool as a National Guard unit.
In a statement released last Friday announcing the passage of the House bill, Faleomavaega said 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.
“This issue is very important and this is why I have worked on it since 2004,” he said, adding that “American Samoa sits in the middle of the Pacific and has strategic importance for U.S. military interests in the region.”
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 requirement for additional infrastructure, including information technology infrastructure, to support such force structure.
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.
Faleomavaega thanked U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Ranking Member Adam Smith and Ranking Member Madeleine Bordallo of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness; the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye and retired Major General Robert Lee for their support and assistance in including his provision in the bill, which now goes to the U.S. Senate for their review and vote.