GUAM’S CALVO DISPUTES SENATOR MCCAIN’S EARMARK COMMENTS

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GUAM’S CALVO DISPUTES SENATOR MCCAIN’S EARMARK COMMENTS Says military buildup funds nothing like ‘Bridge to Nowhere’

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 20, 2011) - Senator John McCain has repeatedly compared military spending on Guam to Alaska's controversial "Bridge to Nowhere" project, an often-cited example of federal money being spent in the wrong places.

Over the last few months, McCain has pushed his colleagues in Congress to cut about US$33 million in military funding for civilian projects on Guam. The projects are intended to counteract the socioeconomic impact of the military buildup, but McCain has said the military has no business paying for them.

"This funding is an absolute earmark for Guam and qualifies by any interpretation as a 'Bridge to Nowhere' in terms of whether it supports any currently on-going activities of the Department of Defense," McCain said on the Senate floor last week.

"You thought the 'Bridge to Nowhere' was bad?" McCain told the Huffington Post soon after. "This is 53 civilian school buses and 53 repair kits for US$10.7 million; US$12.7 million for a cultural artifacts repository. That's in the name of defense."

The "Bridge to Nowhere" was a 2006 plan to build a US$230 million bridge to an Alaskan island with only 50 residents, according to USA Today. The bridge was intended to connect Gravina Island, which also held an airport, to the city of Ketchikan, but it was highly criticized by lawmakers, including McCain. In fact, the project was bashed so badly that it has become an embarrassing black mark on any candidate who ever supported it, including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who ran for the White House with McCain in 2008.

In contrast, the Guam projects that are under fire today include new school buses, a cultural repository, an expansion of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention lab and an expansion plan for Guam Memorial Hospital.

The House of Representatives originally agreed to pay for these projects in a military spending bill, but McCain and his colleagues in the Senate convinced lawmakers to cut the funding. The spending bill is now waiting for President Barack Obama's signature, without the funding for Guam projects.

In response to McCain's statements, Gov. Eddie Calvo issued a statement yesterday explaining that the federal government committed to these projects because they are necessary.

"We support (the military buildup,) but we didn't ask for it. It is necessary for American defense and global security, but Sen. McCain should not make it sound like we requested some insignificant project to be funded," Calvo said. "The repository, the mental health facility and the school buses are needed because of the buildup."

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