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Teacher: NMI can’t afford National Guard unit

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres has asked the federal government to establish a National Guard unit in the CNMI, but a teacher said the Commonwealth cannot afford it.


Ignacio Dela Cruz said the CNMI government cannot even meet its current financial obligations, especially to the Public School System, he added.
In an email to Variety, Dela Cruz said the CNMI government has to “fork-out money that is scarce for a National Guard unit — it does not mean the federal government will 100% fund it.”
An expanded military presence in the CNMI may also mean higher rent for apartments and houses, he added. The teacher said landlords may raise rent once they learn that the amount of military housing assistance, which depends on one’s rank, is at least $1,000. “What will happen to NMI residents who are not in the military and has no housing subsidy?” Dela Cruz asked.
He said the location of a National Guard base may also be an issue. “There have been examples in the past when people had to move out of their land [so the military could] build a base.”
Moreover, Dela Cruz said the process of establishing a National Guard unit is lengthy. “We have other needs to worry about here in the NMI, such as how to keep our [public] schools…and other essential services functioning,” he added. “This is not the right time to worry about a National Guard. We need to deal with the issues we are facing now. I recognize the value of having National Guard units but we must also not ignore the downsides.”
In Nov. 2002, then-Gov. Juan N. Babauta signed Public Law 13-32 or the Northern Mariana Islands National Guard Act authorizing an organized militia.
In Aug. 2015, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said establishing National Guard units for the CNMI had been deemed “feasible” based on a study by the National Guard Bureau. “With our population of 54,000, the bureau estimated the Northern Marianas could recruit two, company-sized National Guard elements, above and beyond the U.S. Army reservists now on Saipan,” Sablan said.
In Sept. 2015, Sablan introduced H.R.3649 “to authorize the establishment of units of the National Guard” in the CNMI.
Governor Torres, for his part, “noted the importance of having a National Guard unit that can assist local first responders and deployed federal personnel in effectively responding to [the Covid-19] pandemic, as well as future natural disasters.”

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