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SEN. John McCain, one of the most senior and powerful senators in the U.S. Congress, has slammed Guam anew, criticizing the funding allotted for Guam in the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
In a joint statement with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., McCain said Congress can’t afford to spend more than $1 trillion in federal tax dollars as budget sequestration continues to strain the U.S. military.
“As we draw closer to the ‘devastating’ effects on our military readiness as foreseen by our former Secretary of Defense, members of Congress have an even more profound responsibility to account for every taxpayer dollar. Every dollar we waste through pork barrel spending today is a dollar not spent to support our troops and preserve our nation’s security,” McCain said.
McCain said the planned appropriation for Guam directly contravenes the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization bill by providing $120 million for civilian infrastructure in Guam, which both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explicitly prohibited until a sufficient cost analysis of the proposed movement of troops from Okinawa to Guam is completed.
“After reviewing this legislation for less than 24 hours, it is clear that our suspicions were well justified. The bill contains numerous examples of egregious pork barrel projects as well as hundreds of millions in spending that was never authorized by the appropriate committee and not requested by the administration,” McCain said.
Responding to McCain’s statement, Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo said the funding for Guam infrastructure projects, specifically water and wastewater treatment systems on the island, has been identified by several federal agencies as critical to supporting and sustaining a robust military presence on Guam.
“The water and wastewater system is nearing capacity and is impacted by the current military population on Guam. The previous EIS (environmental impact study) regarding the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam made this exact point – the current system is near capacity and needs upgrades,” Bordallo said.
Moreover, Bordallo said the request for a public health laboratory is critical to ensuring that significant bio-hazard threats are identified on Guam in a more timely fashion, thereby decreasing the possibility of this threat spreading to Hawaii or the U.S. mainland.
“Apparently Sen. McCain did not closely read the text of his own Defense authorization bill. Section 2832 prohibits the expenditure of civilian infrastructure funding unless there is a specific authorization. Department of Defense lawyers, and most legal scholars, would agree that the language contained in the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 is sufficient to achieve the authorizing language threshold. This legislation is not ignoring the language in the authorization bill; rather it is correcting a flaw in the authorization bill and doing what is right to support the realignment of Marines to Guam as well as the current military population,” Bordallo pointed out.
‘No sense of history’
Furthermore, Bordallo described McCain “as lacking a sense of history.” She pointed out that Congress has, in several instances, specifically funded civilian infrastructure needs in other portions of the country. Specifically, a CSIS report on the Asia-Pacific rebalance, released in July 2012, highlighted that the Department of Defense should fund certain civilian infrastructure projects.
In subsequent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Bordallo said the authors of the report indicated that historically the Department of Defense has funded civilian infrastructure needs at Kings Bay, Ga., and at Bangor, Wash.
“Congress and Department of Defense had the foresight to recognize these two locations were strategically important to the United States and the basing of ballistic missile submarines. In order to achieve this strategic imperative, the Department of Defense and Congress recognized the need to ensure the civilian infrastructure could support and sustain their military populations,” Bordallo said.
If Congress is to support the strategic imperative to rebalance the U.S. military posture in the Asia-Pacific region, Bordallo said it is critical to support civilian infrastructure on Guam.
“I believe this appropriation measure matches rhetoric with actions. It supports the rebalance and provides the necessary support to sustain that rebalance with actual funding. Sen. McCain seems content to say he supports the rebalance without actually putting money into critical needs for the Guam realignment,” Bordallo said.
“Along these lines, I would also note that Sen. McCain supported legislative language in previous Defense authorization bills that called for civilian ‘outside the fence’ infrastructure to be addressed first before any Marines move to Guam. I could not agree more with this assessment and I believe that the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 addresses key and critical infrastructure upgrades on Guam. If we support the rebalance to Asia, including the realignment of Marines from Okinawa, then support for civilian infrastructure is needed. It is important to make this modest investment now to ensure the long-term viability of this forward military presence on Guam for decades to come,” Bordallo added.