Moylan pushes for extension of expired Compact impact funds for Guam
NDAA's provisions for Guam still unclear
By Naina Rao
Guam Del. James Moylan is pressing for a one-year extension of funding for reimbursements of the costs incurred by Guam for hosting migrants from Micronesia.
Moylan’s proposed amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act would provide Guam with $16 million to cover the territory’s expenses for the services provided to the citizens of the freely associated states who are living on island by virtue of the Compacts of Free Association with Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The 20-year compact impact funding expired on Sept. 30, but the Department of the Interior’s budget request for 2024 did not include a renewal of the reimbursement provisions.
Guam received $16 million out of $30 million in annual appropriations provided to host jurisdictions that also included Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.
Instead of renewing the compact impact funding program, the Biden administration’s 2024 budget proposal only included $537 million in funding for the DOI that would be channeled directly to FAS citizens living in the host jurisdictions.
On Monday, Moylan held a press briefing that delved into pending measures that have yet to see certain outcomes.
He said he was communicating with his colleagues in the U.S. Congress to ensure that Guam-related measures and amendments are not taken out. “We’re reminding our colleagues the importance of leaving those amendments in there,” Moylan said.
One of the policy amendments proposed by Moylan was the extension of the H2-B visa cap exemption for Guam to accommodate the growing labor needs of contractors who are undertaking civilian projects outside the fence.
Currently, the majority of H2-B workers coming to Guam are employed by contractors for defense projects. The current NDAA prioritizes labor import for military construction, civilian projects that support the Marines' relocation and companies that were determined to be "adversely affected" by the military buildup.
Moylan sees the extension of H2-B exemptions as a “first hurdle” to get through in Congress.
“We have a shortage of a lot of different types of things, right?” Bobby A. Shringi, Moylan’s chief of staff pointed out. “We’re talking about other professional entities that we need to look into skilled labor.”
In a July presentation to the Guam Chamber of Commerce Business Summit, Mary Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, cited the decrease in Guam’s population and workers leaving for better opportunities as major reasons why hospitality employers can’t find workers.
“This is not cheap labor, this is just labor we don’t have,” said Shringi. “And our proximity makes it even more challenging.”
While Moylan hasn’t seen much opposition to this extension, the matter is still “going to be discussed in conference.”
“The first step is to ensure that we get it passed,” Moylan added. “And from there, we’ll take it even further. We know we’re going to have more typhoons, we’re going to be short-labored.”
Moylan said newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson’s major goal is to finalize the NDAA’s national defense strategy objectives.
The spending policy bill would authorize full budgets for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, establish the Indo-Pacific Campaigning Initiative to support INDOPACOM’s activities, and initiate a comprehensive program for training and building the capacity of Taiwan’s military along with supporting the security partnership of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“Right now, it’s in conference,” Moylan said. “We identified some of the members - our friends - that are part of this conference that debate with the House, debates with the Senate, to see what this NDAA will look like at the end.”
Moylan also announced the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, a bill that would “restore full benefits and quality healthcare” for Filipinos who served in World War II alongside the U.S. forces and offer need-based death pensions to survivors of these veterans.
“They were promised some benefits that eventually, gradually was taken away from them in Congress,” said Moylan.
The bill is cosponsored by Democratic Reps. Kevin Mullin (CA) and Ed Case (HI).