GUAM – The battle over this year’s funding and authorizations for military construction on Guam is in its final round on Capitol Hill, where final House-Senate agreement is expected next week on two bills: a massive omnibus spending package to fund the Pentagon and other federal agencies, and the annual defense authorization bill.
According to House Armed Services staff, final agreement on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which defines national security policy and authorizes military programs, could be reported out of committee next week and prepared for President Obama’s signature.
Meanwhile, a $900 billion omnibus budget to fund the Federal Government heads for joint conference Thursday in Washington. The meeting will primarily address House-Senate differences on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, even though eight other appropriations bills are part of the full omnibus package as well.
Negotiations have been going on behind the scenes, so the open meeting is primarily expected to be pro-forma. Legislators want to put a bill on the President’s desk for signature by Dec. 12, just before the current temporary budget extension runs out and in time to avert a government shutdown.
Both the Defense Authorization Act and the omnibus bill will decide the fate of $155 million for Marine Corps military construction projects on Guam in H.R. 2055 – the bill for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs. In his latest statement on the issue, President Obama opposed the Senate’s move to cut the Guam money, warning it would send the wrong signal to Japan, which is sharing the cost of the realignment.
The outcome of another $33 million for Guam buildup-related civilian infrastructure projects in H.R. 2219, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, will also be resolved. The Senate’s version of the bill retains that money for Guam (despite recent criticism from Sen. John McCain) and was endorsed by its Appropriations Committee in Sept. The full bill, however, will be hotly debated as the Senate version would fund the Pentagon at $513 billion — $26 billion less than President Obama requested and at odds with the $530 billion spending bill passed by the House over the summer.
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