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Defense Bill Provides Only Partial Support for Military Buildup on Guam

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  • February 3, 2011
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House-Senate negotiators late last month dropped a key provision from the final version of the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill that could have provided a significant jolt of infrastructure funding to the government of Guam needed to accommodate the buildup of Marine Corps forces on the island over the next several years.

The provision, included in the House version of the legislation, would have authorized DOD to allocate up to $500 million to pay for municipal services and facilities that directly support the move of 8,600 Marines and 9,000 family members from Japan by 2014. Guam’s infrastructure — including its port, transportation, electricity, water and wastewater — already is inadequate and officials believe the island needs several billion dollars, or more, to deal with the influx.

The funding provision in the authorization bill was needed because the interagency coordination process designed to help Guam handle the realignment has failed, according to an aide to Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D), Guam’s federal representative. The island’s immediate unfunded infrastructure needs reach about $700 million, he said.

The language was stripped out of the measure, however, as congressional leaders removed any controversial provision that could have prevented the authorization bill from passing either chamber as last year’s session wound down. The White House opposed the provision last May, objecting to the language suggesting that Guam infrastructure improvements are solely a DOD responsibility rather than a shared, interagency effort led by the department.

Despite cutting the funding authorization, members of the armed services committees highlighted their concern that Guam lacks the capabilities to fully address the community infrastructure needs stemming from the buildup without impairing the island, according to the joint explanatory statement accompanying the final version of the legislation, H.R. 6523.

The lawmakers’ joint statement also noted that the White House’s May 2010 policy statement indicates, “‘The administration is committed to addressing the needs on Guam (both on base and off) … That effort requires a comprehensive government-wide approach.’”

“We expect this federal government-wide approach to be evident in the president’s fiscal year 2012 budget submission,” the committees’ statement added.

Bordallo likely will introduce the funding provision in next year’s authorization bill, the aide said. “We want to have a full hearing on this,” he said.

President Obama signed H.R. 6523 into law Jan. 7 after Congress almost failed to pass a defense authorization bill for the first time in 48 years.

Water for All

At the same time, several provisions in the measure will aide Guam’s effort to prepare for the massive relocation. The most notable authorizes the secretary of defense to convey the Navy’s water and wastewater system to the Guam Waterworks Authority to establish an integrated, civilian-run system with the military as a consumer. The waterworks authority would be required to pay the Navy fair market value, but the compensation can include in-kind services and can be amortized over a 25-year period.

The language alleviates residents’ concern they would not receive equal access to water resources if there was a shortfall in capacity.

Another section calls for the secretary of the interior to prepare an assessment of the civilian infrastructure improvements needed on Guam to accommodate the military realignment. The report should identify potential funding sources from other federal agencies, and from existing authorities and funds within DOD to support the implementation. The report is due in six months.

Northern Virginia, another region struggling with mission growth, saw a provision intended to lessen traffic congestion weakened after lawmakers dropped language capping the amount of parking at an Alexandria, Va., site at 1,000 spaces. The Mark Center, which is more than two miles away from the closest subway station, is slated to house 6,400 workers relocating from nearby Crystal City, which is convenient to Metrorail.

The White House objected to the provision, saying that it has repeatedly opposed any measure that modifies, delays, repeals or obstructs implementation of a BRAC recommendation. The final language still requires the Army to prepare a traffic management plan that prevents congestion from worsening at six local intersections near the Mark Center. The Army needs to identify potential funding sources to carry out the plan, which is due in 90 days, but is not responsible for supplying the funds.

Energy Security Pilot

Several sections in the legislation will support the Pentagon’s ongoing effort to improve its energy security while increasing its reliance on renewable energy. One calls for DOD and the Energy Department to launch a collaborative energy security pilot program to evaluate secure microgrid components and systems for deployment.

The departments would jointly select a military installation and a national laboratory to act as a test bed for innovative energy technologies. In selecting an installation, officials should consider the availability of renewable energy sources, energy security assessments and the feasibility of selling excess electricity to the neighboring community. The pilot is intended to validate energy components and designs that could be implemented at other installations across the country. The pilot should last at least three years, according to the bill.

Another provision requires each service to develop an energy performance master plan, which should include:

  • the use of a baseline standard to measure energy consumption by facilities, transportation systems and utilities;
  • a way to measure reductions in consumption that takes into account changes in the size of fleets, facilities and square footage;
  • metrics to track annual progress in meeting energy performance goals; and
  • a description of requirements and proposed investments needed to achieve energy performance goals in the president’s annual budget submission.

H.R. 6523 is available from Thomas (select the 111th Congress).

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