U.S. Senate To Block Spending For Guam Buildup

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Committee opposes relocation of Marine to Okinawa without plan

By Frank Whitman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, June 17, 2013) – The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee has indicated its intention to again block spending on the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa. That news comes on the heels of passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday.

The House version leaves intact $494.6 million in military construction funds for Guam, as well as $119.4 million for civilian infrastructure needs on Guam including improvements at the Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Hagåtña Wastewater Treatment Plant. It also eliminates restrictions on government of Japan funds for the Marine realignment, according to a release from the Office of Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo.

On the other hand, the Senate committee passed its version of the bill that "extends the prohibition on funds for the realignment of Marine Corps’ forces from Okinawa to Guam or other Pacific locations until [the Department of Defense] provides a master plan for construction and the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command provides an assessment of the strategic and logistical resources the distributed laydown requires to meet contingency operations plans, among other things. The provision includes an exception for facilities that would have military value independent of the movement of Marines from Okinawa to Guam," according to the highlights of the committee’s version of the bill, as announced Friday by Sen. Carl Levin, committee chairman.

The highlights also indicate that "reductions to the budget request include ... $238.3 million on Guam."

It also includes a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise for all service members. The House version included a 1.8 percent pay raise.

The committee voted to report its bill to the full Senate by a vote of 23-3. The full text of the committee’s version of the bill was not available at press time.

Disappointment

Bordallo, who had championed the measure in the House version of the bill, expressed her disappointment over the Senate’s action. "It is unfortunate that the Senate continues to cut military construction, funding for necessary civilian infrastructure and prohibits the spending of government of Japan funds," she said. "These provisions undermine our bilateral relationship with Japan and the readiness of our military in the Asia-Pacific region. The House bill takes a very different position, and I look forward to resolving these matters when we go to conference on the NDAA later this year."

The bill has yet to be voted on by the entire Senate. Once the Senate passes the bill, the final form of which may vary from the committee’s version, members of the two bodies will meet in a conference committee to agree on a version of the bill to be voted on by both houses. Once a bill is passed by both houses, it will be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. Obama’s budget proposal included full funding for the Guam buildup projects.

The restriction on the funding of projects related to the Marine realignment was first included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, at the behest of Levin, then-Sen. James Webb, and Republican Sen. John McCain, who is still a member of the committee. The restriction remained in the NDAA for fiscal 2013.

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