$33M for socioeconomic projects hinges on DoD - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

$33M for socioeconomic projects hinges on DoD

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Arizona Senator John McCain may have succeeded in getting $155 million in military construction projects cut from the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, but that wasn't the case for a $33 million dollar appropriation for socioeconomic projects for Guam. The money would fund a cultural repository for ancient artifacts, purchase 53 new school buses, and build the first phase of a new mental health facility. 

It's up to the Department of Defense though to make a final determination on whether the funds can be transferred to other federal agencies to benefit Guam. Senator McCain though isn't giving up on his efforts. On the very day that the senate passed the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included the $33 million appropriation, he sent a letter to his colleagues urging them to cut what he calls "unneeded spending for public infrastructure to address longstanding issues on Guam unrelated to the buildup."

Military Buildup Chair Senator Judi Guthertz says that $33 million was negotiated between Guam and the military that recognized the legitimacy of these needs. "These are programs that are mitigated because the military knows that these are going to be areas that are going to have a significant impact for military buildup that includes increase use of our medical facilities, hospitals, mental health facilities, more people going to our schools," she stated. "Hence the need for more school busses."

Governor Eddie Calvo also expressed disappointment with McCain's continued efforts to thwart funding for the buildup. He expressed, "This is unfortunate, but Senator McCain fails to see, I guess, for him this agreement is something that is of non-importance. And at this point he has been very consistent in looking for ways in breaking this agreement. But we're going to continue to be forceful and push what we believe are areas that the federal government has obligated itself to."

With the recent passing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and concerns about the uncertainty and stability of the country, Senator Guthertz says Guam's strategic role is more important than ever. "But we need our Congress to support us and the need for a strong presence here in the Western Pacific because countries like North Korea are so close to us and barely four hours away," she told KUAM News.

Governor Calvo says he has already spoken with Undersecretary Robert Work, advising him of the administration's desire to speed up movement on the buildup and the acceptance of a strategic plan. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo meanwhile says she will encourage the DoD to utilize the authority provided in the legislation, consistent with congressional intent.

She adds she will work with the Defense Department to have the funds transferred.

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