Alternatives to the Northern Mariana Islands Land Lease

ID-82-55: Published: Aug 19, 1982. Publicly Released: Aug 23, 1982.

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At a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense (DOD) proposal to lease about 18,000 acres of land in the Northern Mariana Islands. The lease option is contained in a covenant between the Marianas and the United States. DOD has not demonstrated a need for over half of the total land, and the lease option contains limitations on uses that are not in the interests of either the Northern Mariana Islands Government or the U.S. Government.

GAO found that alternatives exist which would reduce rental costs and make the land leased more consistent with usage requirements. First, the option could be allowed to expire and, subsequently, it should be possible for the United States to lease needed military training land on an annual basis. The Marianas Government would be free to develop the rest of the land. Second, the United States could exercise its option and pay approximately $34 million with no further rent payments. However, the lease precludes any commercial development and would obligate the United States to pay an undetermined amount in relocation payments to homesteaders now living on part of the land. The third alternative, allowing the option to expire and attempting to negotiate a new long-term lease covering only the land for which a clear military need has been identified, would be less costly and more useful for U.S. military planning and would allow local commercial development.

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