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Guam missile defense tests to disrupt lives of residents living near the drill site, local officials say

Updated: Jun 12

 Local government asks MDA to extend public commenting period on 'complex document'



By Pacific Island Times News Staff


The documents detailing plans for the annual flight tests of Guam’s missile defense system will entail a comprehensive review, Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio said, noting the proposed drills’ potential impact on the environment and community life.


“I am most especially concerned about any impacts on land owners, including the possibility of the need to evacuate their properties during testing,” Tenorio said in a letter to Lt. Gen. Heath A. Collins, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

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MDA has released the proposed final environmental assessment/overseas environmental assessment and proposed Finding of No Significant Impact or FONSI and opened the public commenting period on June 3, which ends on July 2.

 

“After a cursory review by my team, we determined that the EA/OEA on June 3, 2024. is a complex document with far-reaching implications,” Tenorio said in a letter he sent to Collins in his capacity as acting governor.  

 

Tenorio is requesting a 60-day extension to the comment period to give the government adequate time “to review the assessment thoroughly, consult relevant experts, and engage in meaningful discussions with our community stakeholders.”

 

Speaker Therese Terlaje wrote a separate letter to Collins, echoing Tenorio's concerns. "If the MDA truly seeks sufficient public engagement from Guam’s community, then the current 30-day public comment period will prove ineffective, especially considering the length and content of the document

up for review," she said.


The MDA is proposing to launch the initial flight test of Guam’s missile defense system in the first quarter of fiscal 2025, which would be followed by annual tests in subsequent years.

 

According to the MDA’s environmental assessment, the proposed action would include up to two flight tests or tracking exercises per year. They would be deployed from Andersen Air Force Base or at sea from a U.S. Navy ship.

 

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“The government of Guam recognizes the importance of national security and the role of our island in that mission.  However, the proposed activities have

the potential to significantly impact our environment, our economy. and the daily lives of our residents,” Tenorio said.


According to the proposed final EA/OEA, landowners on the  boundaries of

 AAFB may be asked to stay away from their properties during the tests.


The exercise would require temporary access restrictions to public and private lands within the test sites for up to four days, once or twice a year.

 

“We are committed to working collaboratively with the MDA to ensure that any act1v1t1es undertaken on or around Guam are conducted in a manner that safeguards our environment, respects our cultural heritage, and protects the

interests of our people,” the lt. governor said.

 

In a separate letter, Terlaje said a 30-day comment period is not enough time to fully comprehend the magnitude of the MDA's proposed actions and their potential effects.


“This new MDA publication, the Proposed Final EA/ OEA, is part of the federal government’s plans to establish a 360-degree enhanced integrated air and missile defense system in Guam," the speaker said.


"Although the MDA asserts that there will be “no significant impact” from their proposed flight tests, the 378-page document details 10-year bi-annual deployment and testing of missiles on our shores and in our waters, which may temporarily restrict residents’ use of the ocean and public and private property," she added.


Dr. Robert Underwood, chairman of the Pacific Center for Island Security, said the MDA’s announcement was “the first of a coming tidal wave of paperwork and follow-on activities related to the military’s missile defense plans for Guam.”

 

“As a community, it is time to ask ourselves, what is the value of Guam. What is the value of our people? Who defines our value? How is it that our futures are spun into an anticipated cycle of violence without our consent?” he said.





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