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House passes Defense Authorization Act

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the revised version of Ike Skelton's National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. The bill includes war reparations and other funding for the island. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo announced that the House passed H.R. 6523 by a vote of 341-48. 

The Act authorizes spending and set policy for the Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2011. The bill was introduced on Wednesday by chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Skelton. The revised bill include provisions, which would benefit Guam. Among those include H.R. 44, also known as the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, which provides compensation for survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam and the descendents of those who died during the Japanese occupation.

It excludes payment to descendants of survivors of the occupation who suffered personal injury. Reacting to the passage is Senator Frank Blas, Jr. He says he hopes the congresswoman will continue to push for war reparations. He said, "We continue. She had stated that she's going to continue to work and ensure that these provisions are included not only in this version, but the Senate version as well. It's the Senate version that we have to worry about, being that the House has already passed and the provisions in not only the current year but also last year's NDAA. So I hope she's successful in getting it there."

In addition, the bill contains a number of things that will help the island with the military buildup. It authorizes the transfer of the Navy's water and wastewater system to the Guam Waterworks Authority and will make the Navy a ratepayer of GWA. Blas says the island needs funding any way possible to help with the buildup, noting, "There is no way that we're going to be able to front the improvements in the infrastructure that is needed for this buildup with just our resources, I think. The federal government has to recognize that if they want to bring this type of activity here."

The bill also maintains provisions that would provide the Guam National Guard with tools to continue recruiting and retaining guardsmen and women. It funds a support maintenance shop and extends authority to pay for transportation allowances for guardsmen who live in the CNMI, but train on Guam and cover funding shortfalls in guard equipment accounts.

While the measure provides these elements for Guam, it also cuts military construction on Guam. The cuts are due to issues with the obligation of navy military construction funding from previous years. The Senate will consider the bill in the coming days on the floor.

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