Committee report freezes buildup funding - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Committee report freezes buildup funding

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - After meeting behind closed doors conferees emerged ready to report out the final version of the proposed 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo was part of the secret discussions - and she's not pleased with the outcome.

Just in time for Congress to head home for the holidays, as expected the House Senate Conference Committee, responsible for crafting a final version of the 2012 NDAA, produced their final product. And according to the conference report, it keeps intact Senator John McCain's provisions to cut $33 million in civilian infrastructure projects, prohibits the transfer of U.S. and Japanese military construction until certain conditions are met. It does not apply to funds already received from the Government of Japan or U.S. funding from previous fiscal years. The final version of the NDAA would also freeze the transfer of any Office of Economic Adjustment funding in Fiscal Year 2012 to support Guam infrastructure requirements. 

The final version also includes a provision for a study to be conducted on the military's force posture in the region.

Leaders from both the House and Senate spoke with reporters after completing conference expressing their satisfaction with the results.  McCain has been one of the staunchest opponents of funding for the buildup, he along with Senators Carl Levin and Jim Webb called the Department of Defense's plans for realignment "unworkable undoable and unaffordable". Evidently he was successful in nixing funding for Guam.

McCain along with House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith answered questions from reporters regarding the Guam realignment. He said, "We're still waiting for the Administration to sort of decide what the Guam realignment is going to be this was an area of disagreement there was some funding for Guam I supported, but was outvoted. They're making changes in the Pacific; they have not finalized the Okinawa move and it would be easier for our committee to make these decisions in the committee if we knew exactly what the realignment was in the Pacific.

McCain stated, "The Pentagon agrees with us that we should put a pause on this whole realignment issue and get a study an assessment as soon as possible on how this realignment can work in a most efficient fashion. The original cost has gone up from $6 billion to $16 billion with no end in sight, so we're trying to get an again. Secretary Panetta agrees on an entire assessment before we move forward on any additional projects, although there were a couple of projects in Guam that didn't have anything to do with realignment that were approved.

Smith also added, "I just want to point out that whatever realignment is Guam is a critical part of our national security strategy in Asia. And wherever the realignment comes down, I don't want to see Guam hurt by that uncertainty. Whatever we decide to do with the bases there it has to be funded and supported. Like any base that we have in the country and I hope we can resolve that and Guam can get a clear picture on what support they're going to get.

Bordallo meanwhile strongly opposes the conference committee report, saying she will not sign off on it. She is urging her colleagues to vote against it, but should it pass will urge President Barack Obama to veto it. Bordallo added, "The bill delays the inevitable investments that are necessary on Guam to support realignment of forces, and it sends the wrong message to Japan at a critical time in the process for the prime minister to achieve progress in Okinawa. The bill completely ignores the Administration's efforts and priorities in improving the posture of military forces in the Asia-Pacific Region, and it further delays military construction projects that were initially slated to be awarded this fiscal year."  

Bordallo added, "The outcomes in this bill are a wake-up call to our community that we must speak with a single, unified voice if we are to move forward with the build-up." Of note is that proposed funding for the buildup went from $303 million to what's now in the final version $83.6 million for military construction projects on Guam.

Locally Guam Buildup Chair Senator Judi Guthertz said of the final version that the congressional freeze on buildup spending is a short-term setback but not the end. Also, the White House is already threatening to veto the bill because of the Senate's inclusion of a provision allowing U.S. citizens accused of terrorism indefinitely without a trial.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called the provision "an historic threat to American citizens". A vote on the final version of the 2012 NDAA is expected Thursday, Guam time.

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