GUAM – The Federal government should avert a shutdown this Friday (yet again) as Congress is set to pass a short-term extension to fund operations. The temporary spending bill will pull the country back from the brink for a brief moment, but it does nothing to stabilize the budget outlook for the Pentagon or its military buildup in Guam.
The House of Representatives is set to approve in a brief pro forma session this Thursday (Washington, D.C. time) a one-week continuing resolution enacted earlier by the Senate, effectively ensuring that the nation can begin the 2012 fiscal year on Oct. 1 with spending money. Barring any lawmaker returning from their current recess to protest it, the measure is expected to pass.
Next week, when the full House returns from its break, the body will debate the Senate-approved measure to finance the government through mid-November.
Temporary extensions have become a bad habit of increasing frequency in Washington, underscoring the deep political divide that has reduced Congress to constant fights over spending and little time to focus on the long term. As with the business community in Guam, constant extending does nothing to ease uncertainty and often causes anxiety for those affected by congressional appropriations.
In the case of Guam, the Navy had planned to spend $155 million in fiscal year 2012 appropriations for key construction projects meant to prepare the island for the transfer of 8,600 Marines from Okinawa. That money is in jeopardy, however, because the Senate has axed it from their version of HR 2055, the appropriations bill for military construction and veterans programs. Like other 2012 appropriations bills, the bicameral conference to resolve the House and Senate versions of HR 2055 has taken a back seat to the bigger debate over cutting the nation’s alarming deficit.
Any new spending on the buildup program has been on ice since August when the new debt ceiling law, or so-called Budget Control Act to reduce the deficit, was enacted. The law requires the Pentagon to find $350 billion in savings over ten years with the potential for a second round, or sequester, of even deeper budget cuts if Congress fails to agree on a deficit reduction plan by December.
Defense experts and Pentagon officials have said sequestration would have serious impacts for national security, requiring a review of all defense strategies, including the troop realignment in Asia-Pacific, the Guam portion of which has been estimated at $17.4 billion.
While Marines-related construction is underway on new aviation capabilities at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base and shore embarkation facilities at Naval Base Apra Harbor, Washington’s stalemate has so far thwarted phase one projects at Finegayan, where the Marines’ housing, administration and quality of life facilities are planned.
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