GUAM – Nearly two months into the current fiscal year, Congress continues to let slide its decision on a 2012 budget for defense and most other federal agencies. Lawmakers last week passed only three out of a dozen appropriations bills needed to keep the government running, and opted to bridge the gap with yet another temporary funding extension, the third such continuing resolution in since the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.
The continuing resolution, H.R. 2112, is separate from this week’s failed super committee negotiations over a long-term deficit reduction plan and the ensuing threat of across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs. Nonetheless, the surpassing urgency of and partisan deadlock over that long-range plan have paralyzed lawmakers tasked to decide present spending levels.
This latest budget bill approved annual funding for only five federal agencies – the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development – along with NASA and other programs. The rest of the government got a funding extension, which expires on Dec. 16.
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.
Congress’s inability to agree on this year’s appropriations for the Department of Defense, on top of the mandate to shrink defense spending over the next decade, do nothing to dispel uncertainty over whether a multi-billion-dollar military buildup program on Guam can be sorted out over the next year.
President Obama and Defense Secretary Panetta, meanwhile, have stressed the importance of the realignment and pressed the Senate not to cut the buildup funding from this year’s budget. The buildup, expected to cost at least $17.4 billion, is meant to prepare the island to host thousands of Marines being transferred from Okinawa.
The Navy had planned to spend $155 million in fiscal year 2012 appropriations for key Marines-related construction projects. That money is in jeopardy, however, because the Senate has axed it from their version of H.R. 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 H.R. 2055 has taken a back seat to the bigger debate over deficit reduction.
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.
While construction is underway on new aviation capabilities at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base and shore embarkation facilities at Naval Base Apra Harbor for the Marines, 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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