Washington D.C. – The Senate Armed Services Committee, following the lead of the Appropriations Committee, unanimously passed its 2013 National Defense bill Thursday, eliminating most Guam build-up projects and continuing restrictions on Japanese funding.
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The 2013 NDAA now heads to a vote before the full Senate. A House-Senate conference committee will then hammer out the final version of the 2013 NDAA which then must be approved by both chambers. Only then will Guam know how much funding has been approved for construction projects on island next year. That may not happen until the 4th quarter of this year.
Following the Committee’s action, Armed Service’s Chairman Carl Levin was asked if the Defense Authorization Act includes any civilian infrastructure money for Guam, any military construction funding beyond the $8.5 million dollar Guam National Guard Headquarters project or any new restrictions on use of Japanese money.
Levin: “I think we continued the provision, relative to limiting additional construction, until we get these reports. And there was one milcon, military construction project, on Guam I think it was the one that you just identified, but I’m looking for help.”
A Levin aide said the almost $68-million dollar fuel pipeline upgrade from Anderson Air Force Base to Naval Base Guam was also authorized. [That pipeline project was not funded in the Appropriation Committee’s defense spending bill passed earlier this week.]
However, the Armed Service’s Committee conditioned both the pipeline work and the National Guard facility on completion of a pending DoD study.
The Senate bill also nixed a $128-million dollar refueling and maintenance hangar at Andersen, which was included in the House’s version of the 2013 NDAA bill.
A vocal critic of the Guam build-up, especially the civilian projects, top Armed Services Republican John McCain, was asked if the Senate cuts would hurt relations with Japan on the build-up.
McCain: “According to law, we had a study made. The Pentagon now admits, they made a terrible mistake by waiting three-months, before they even let a contract. We expect that assessment sometime next month and then, I think, we would be able to make the appropriate decision, associated with, not only what the administration’s plan is, but what the independent assessment says.”
McCain was upset the assessment of realignment plans throughout the Pacific was not done right after the 2012 defense bill passed last year.
Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo issued a statement that she’s “encouraged” the Senate committee included the fuel pipeline upgrade, but “disappointed” it’s “contingent” on DoD reports.
She complained Senate requirements have “added more red tape” to the process.
Bordallo also criticized the Senate bill for continuing restrictions on Japan funding into fiscal 2013 and hoped the independent assessment will endorse the revised realignment laydown plan so the build-up can finally get “back on track.”