Consultant: Guam can be ‘launching point’ to fight ISIS
The world’s attention on North Korea ratcheting up threats against the United States, and ISIS gaining entry in the Philippines present Guam with an opportunity, said Ginger Cruz, who co-owns a consulting firm that focuses on the Middle East and a former official in the Bush II and Obama administrations.
“Guam can absolutely leverage its ability as a U.S. territory to become a stronger launching point for the efforts against ISIS in the Philippines and in North Korea,” Cruz said. Ginger Cruz is from Guam, a 1982 graduate of the Academy of Our Lady of Guam and once a familiar face on Guam’s KUAM news in the 1990s before she left for Washington, D.C. She worked her way up to some of the highest circles in the federal government, including the U.S. Defense Department, before starting her consulting firm and being based in Lebanon for the past five years.
Two things have happened that have really put Guam back on the map: North Korea and the rise of ISIS in the Philippines, she said during a visit to Guam late last month.
“You mention Guam and all of a sudden, they say, ‘Guam? So tell me about Guam’ and it starts to come back up,” Cruz said.
“The beginning of ISIS in the Philippines ... it’s really upsetting to see something which has had some terrible impact in (the Middle East) – we’re starting to hear in this part of the world,” Cruz said. “I mean, the Philippines is one flight away from Guam.”
The world is paying attention to the Asia-Pacific region, she said, which can be negative or positive, depending on who’s doing the selling.
“It’s a great time for Guam to make more of an impression and tell people: ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re part of the United States and we’re a critical part of the military strategy in the region,’” she said.
Cruz is a managing partner and CEO of Mantid International. She received a bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in international public policy from Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.
Cruz previously served eight years with the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and led a team of 150 auditors, inspectors, investigators, and staff responsible for overseeing $60 billion in U.S. and Iraqi funds spent on reconstruction and stabilization.
Guam could offer a solution to the U.S. military’s needs because the Philippines doesn’t want the United States to re-establish military bases in the Philippines in response to ISIS, Cruz said.
And the Japan government, particularly Okinawa, does not want an expanded U.S. military presence in the country, Cruz said.
“I think that (Guam resurgence) is going to come back now because especially with this administration in Washington, they’re not really keen on spending money to build an American base in the Philippines; they’re not gonna go back to (former U.S. Navy base in the Philippines in Subic Bay) or they’re not gonna expand in Okinawa.”
In Guam, Cruz said, local officials would be faced with the task of balancing a military expansion with keeping the island from being “overrun.”
She said Guam can benefit from increased military presence, in part by making sure the island gains economically, such as through increased job opportunities to local residents and through the military picking up the tab for improvements to power, water and other island infrastructure.
“If it’s done strategically, the financial impact – as long as Guam looks at ways to maximize (the) financial impact – (can) really get an injection for the infrastructure,” she said.
Guam can get its roads expanded and improved, and get electricity and water redone, she said.
With the right approach, she said, “it’s a golden moment,” and Guam can take advantage of “the refocus of the geopolitical eye on the island and on the region, (and) leverage that to build more opportunities.”
Based on her experience in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, and coming back to Washington to brief the likes of Bush administration National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and certain members of Congress or their key staffers, Cruz said she sees Guam as a potential bigger hub for military operations.
Cruz said she reached her career achievements through hard work, part luck, networking with the right people and instinct. She said she seizes an opportunity when she sees it.
She also said she learned a lot of her people skills from Guam – where everyone is treated the same and people are on friendly terms, regardless of their wealth or political standing.
The high-level officials in her sphere, she said, are still people and they recognize when talent is sincere, when people do their homework and come to work and meetings prepared.
So how does she feel to be back in Guam for the first time in 17 years?
Coming home meant being welcomed by friends and family and even the nuns at her high school who still remember her.
“A couple of things that struck me. Guam is a little bit caught in time,” she said. “There’s like a slightly new thing here and there, but in general, it was still almost exactly the way I remember it, but nicer in a way.”