GUAM – The House-Senate conference on the annual Defense policy bill voted Monday night in Washington to freeze the military construction program that is preparing Guam to host thousands of Marines from Okinawa.
The final version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act — major legislation that sets program and spending priorities for the Pentagon and other defense-related agencies – adopted the Senate’s position that the Guam military buildup be frozen until certain requirements are met.
The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and senior members met with reporters last night to announce they’d come to a compromise and agreed on a bill for fiscal year 2012. The leaders stated their intent to bring the conference report up for a final vote in the House and Senate as early as Wednesday. Meanwhile, the White House has made clear President Obama will be looking to see that the bill addresses his biggest concerns with the mandatory military detention of terror suspects before agreeing to sign it into law.
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) highlighted the bill’s major compromise requirements in a press release last night, including these affecting Guam:
• An independent study must be conducted by a non-governmental entity to assess the U.S. military’s security posture in the United States Pacific Command area of responsibility;
• The bill prohibits funds for the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam until the Commandant of the Marine Corps provides an updated force lay-down and the Secretary of Defense submits a master plan to Congress for all construction costs and a completion schedule;
• The bill cuts $33 million from the Office of Economic Adjustment for Guam buildup-related civilian infrastructure projects because that funding request “appears to be ahead of need”; and
• It cuts approximately $150 million in projects requested for the realignment of U.S. Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam “as projects are not necessary in this fiscal year.”
This last reduction will directly affect a planned upgrade to North Ramp utilities at Andersen Air Force Base and new water utilities at the location of the planned Marine base at Finegayan in Dededo. It also means that only incremental funding will be authorized for an Air Force fuel systems maintenance hangar for the Guam Strike – a program that is transforming Andersen Air Force Base into a Pacific hub for global reconnaissance that includes new Global Hawk technology.
The final bill had full bipartisan agreement, with all 26 members of the conference signing it, according to a statement by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) who was cited in Mr. Levin’s release.
However, in her own release, Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, a member of the joint conference, had this to say: “The Conference Committee report lacks support for Guam and our military posture in the Asia-Pacific region, and the bill contains mixed results that are troubling to our national security. I will not sign the report, and if this bill is passed by the House and Senate, I will urge President Obama to veto this bill.”
Capping defense authorizations for the budget year at $662 billion, the conference agreement authorizes $26.6 billion less than the President’s full budget request for the Pentagon and defense-related agencies.
Mr. Levin and Mr. McCain said they believe the compromise bill will satisfy White House concerns over terrorist-detainee provisions enough to avoid a veto by the President.
Update: An earlier version of this story was updated to include the statement by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo.
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