The Tinian and Pagan Project seeks to ensure that the interests and concerns of the residents of the islands of Tinian and Pagan carry significant weight in the ongoing debates over whether to move forward with the proposed expansion in U.S. military exercises in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. To achieve this objective, the Pacific Islands Society will use third-party platforms to generate global awareness about the difficult political, economic, environmental, social, and strategic tradeoffs facing these communities.
“As part of the American pivot toward Asia, the United States Department of Defense is working hard to expand its military training in the Pacific. This includes conducting new live-fire amphibious training exercises on the tiny island of Pagan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. As it stands, the Pentagon reportedly envisions conducting live-fire training exercises at least sixteen weeks a year. To do so, the Pentagon wants to secure a lease on the entire island (~ 18-square-mile) from the unincorporated, dependent territory. This is in addition to the Pentagon’s current lease on two-thirds of the island of Tinian, where the Department of Defense also plans to expand military exercises in the near future.
Over the past six months, the Pentagon’s plans to expand military training in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have been met with fierce opposition from local residents. We therefore jointly call on the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to commit to hold a binding public referendum on whether to allow these military training exercises to move forward on Pagan and Tinian. Such a public referendum would ensure that, in the words of the executive director of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, the expanded military training not only meets the needs of the U.S. military but also properly safeguards and compensates the residents for any associated economic disruptions, ecological damages, and negative social impacts. It would do so by placing the onus on the Pentagon to convince the majority of the residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that the expanded military training on Tinian and Pagan is in their best interest.
As petitioners, we are not jointly making a political statement on whether or not the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands should support or oppose the proposed expansion of military training in the referendum. Rather, we are jointly calling on: 1) The Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to immediately commit to holding a public referendum following the publication of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS), 2) The United States Congress to expeditiously pass follow-on legislation to authorize federal funding to cover the costs associated with the public referendum; 3) The Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, to publicly support the proposed public referendum and agree, on behalf of Department of Defense, to be bound by the will of the people as expressed by way of the public referendum.”