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McCain Decries Appropriators’ Inclusion of Funding for Civilian Needs on Guam

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  • December 20, 2011
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Despite suspending funding for the military buildup in Guam in this year’s defense authorization legislation, Congress allocated $33 million for several civilian projects on the island in the defense spending bill, an outcome that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says cannot be justified.

“I believe it is imperative that the omnibus appropriations bill reflect the deliberate decision of the Senate Armed Services and House Armed Services conferees regarding the responsible use of defense funds in both the military construction and operations and maintenance accounts in order to maintain a consistent congressional position,” McCain wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

Due to concerns over the cost as well as the lack of detailed planning for DOD’s plan to relocate 8,600-plus Marines from Okinawa to Guam, McCain, along with other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, withheld funds for the realignment in the final version of the fiscal 2012 authorization bill completed last week. As a consequence, appropriators working on the conference agreement for the nine-bill FY 2012 spending package approved last week, H.R. 2055, did not allocate funds for $155 million requested by the administration for milcon projects needed to support the move.

But while the authorization bill struck $33.0 million from the Office of Economic Adjustment’s account for the socioeconomic projects on Guam, the defense spending bill retained the funding initially included in the president’s budget request.

  • purchase of 53 school buses and spare parts for public schools ($10.7 million);
  • construction of a cultural repository to preserve artifacts unearthed during military construction ($12.7 million); and
  • construction of the first phase of a mental health and substance abuse facility to handle population growth stemming from the buildup ($9.6 million).

To distribute the money, the Office of Economic Adjustment would transfer the funds to two federal agencies, the departments of the Interior and Housing and Urban Development.

On Friday, McCain made the case that because Congress is suspending preparations for the Marines’ relocation, the projects aren’t needed.

“But we have paused that redeployment in the authorization bill because we don’t know exactly how to do it. So we are pausing the redeployment of Marines; meanwhile, the appropriators move forward and put $10.7 million in to buy civilian school buses, and not one single Marine, sailor or airman has been assigned to Guam as part of the intended buildup that would justify in any way using that money,” he said on the Senate floor during remarks about the omnibus spending bill.

Given the discrepancy between the two pieces of legislation, it is not clear what DOD’s intentions are regarding the funds. The department was unable to comment in time for this story.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, however, defended the projects in a written statement Monday applauding appropriators for keeping the funding in the omnibus. The language in H.R. 2055 was meant to provide the necessary authorization for DOD to use the funds intended for civilian infrastructure requirements on Guam, in compliance with restrictions in the defense authorization bill, she said, citing a conversation with Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Appropriations Committee.

Section 2207 of the authorization bill, H.R. 1540, prohibits DOD from transferring funds to another agency for the development of public infrastructure without a specific statutory authorization.

“The Department of Defense will have to make a final determination on whether these funds can be transferred to other federal agencies to benefit Guam,” Bordallo concluded.

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