GUAM – A little reassurance – not more money (at least not yet) — from Congress could shake loose some much-needed stimulus for the local economy. Unfortunately, as long as congressional paralysis over how to shrink the nation’s deficit keeps the Pentagon on edge, hundreds of millions of dollars that today could be contracted in Guam military buildup projects won’t be.
U.S.-Japan appropriations for the buildup already total over $1.5 billion, and with most of the Navy’s contract vehicles for the program already in place, what the Navy really needs now to start spending again is credible evidence that Congress won’t significantly alter the plan to move thousands of Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam.
With that much money still in the bank (total buildup spending to date is only $320 million in contract awards), congressional deadlock over the nation’s fiscal year 2012 budget is hardly the crux of the issue. The 2012 budget does include $155 million for buildup construction, but what’s already in the bank is plenty for the moment.
Real confidence – that, even as Washington struggles with America’s deficit, soaring unemployment and an underperforming economy, Congress will still go the distance to fund the multi-billion dollar realignment plan – would make all the difference.
It would give Tokyo even stronger reason to speed up results on a controversial new air base on Okinawa so the Marines can move out of its crowded Futenma area.
On Guam, the Navy could move forward with its environmental assessment at Apra Harbor. A finance structure for local utility upgrades can be negotiated between the U.S., Japan and Guam. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas can recalibrate its procurement program and adjust its staffing plan to match. And so on.
But it’s the eleventh hour before a Nov. 23 deadline for the deficit super committee to produce a plan on which hangs the 10-year outlook for all federal spending, not the least of which is the Department of Defense budget.
Failure to produce a plan or rejection of the plan by Congress in December would trigger across-the-board sequestration. That would mean defense cuts of another $500 billion to $600 billion over the next 10 years, in addition to the $350 billion in defense savings already mandated by the August debt ceiling law.
The super committee produced two competing plans last week that reveal Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on a solution.
As reported in a story Nov. 4 in The Hill, Republicans on the super committee are working through the weekend to find a proposal with enough revenue to be credible without angering strident anti-tax members of their party. Since the Democrat proposal offers to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from entitlement benefits dear to its party, the Republicans are on the hot seat to find ways to close tax loopholes and increase revenue in order to reach a compromise.
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