- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Guam gets huge cut under FY20 defense policy bill OK’d by House panel
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020, approved by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, appropriates $310.2 million for military construction on Guam — plunging 31 percent from the $448.5 million authorized under the current fiscal year.
The allocation for Tinian jumps to $316 million, from $52 million in the current fiscal year. New major projects in the pipeline bring this increased funding for the island.
The House version of HR 2500 sets the national defense spending level at $733 billion, which is $17 billion below the figure requested by the White House and approved by the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
“The administration also has significant concerns about several provisions of H.R. 2500. These provisions would pose serious challenges to continued execution of the NDS and the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review impair the President’s authorities, prerogatives, and responsibilities as Commander in Chief; impede efforts to ensure border security; undermine the nation’s defense posture; and harm the warfighter,” the White House said in a press statement.
“If HR 2500 were presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he veto it.” For Guam military construction, $226 million is allocated for the Navy, $65 million for Air Force, and $19.2 million for defense agencies.
HR 2500 authorizes only $64 million for Bachelor Quarters, which is below the $164 million requested by the Department of Defense. Other appropriations include $91.2 million for machine gun range, $61.9 million for EOD compound, $65 million for munition storage, and $19.2 million for X-ray wharf refueling facility.
The projects are part of the military build up on Guam and the CNMI but the bill does not address the labor issues in the territories. The proposed appropriation for Tinian includes $109 million for airfield development project, $109 million for fuel tanks with pipeline hydrant, and $98 million for parking apron.
On May 3, the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the U.S. Department of Defense signed a 40-year lease agreement worth $21.9 million for the U.S. Air Force’s divert airfield in Tinian May 3, 2019. The divert project is designed to provide strategic operational and exercise capabilities for U.S. forces when needed and offer humanitarian assistance/disaster relief in times of natural or man-made disasters.
The Record of Decision for the Divert Activities and Exercises Environmental Impact Survey was signed on Dec. 7, 2016, and announced the USAF decision to select the Modified Tinian Alternative and specifically the North Option, as a future divert location.
“We’re going to see a lot of construction,” said Allison Sands, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, said in a May 3 press release. “One of the first construction projects will be the fuel pipeline that will run from the seaport to airport will allow for commercial aircraft to access fuel at the Tinian airport, something currently not possible that is critical for bringing in commercial flights.”
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HR 2500 continues the prohibition on the use of defense funds for repair or reconstruction of the former ship repair facility in Guam.
The White House objects to this provision, saying “this funding restriction would impede Navy’s ability to plan and program projects necessary to best utilize limited real estate resources to support future mission growth and advanced warfighting capabilities.”
In a press statement, the White House said blocking the redevelopment of the facility “would negatively impact Navy’s ability to sustain its advantage over peer competitors, place warfighters at risk, and create an untenable safety risk.”
The House’s version of H.R. 2500 “includes a number of provisions that raise deep concerns,” the White House said.
“The level of funding that would be authorized by the bill—a total of $733 billion for national defense—is $17 billion below the fiscal year 2020 budget request and would not fully support critical national security priorities,” the White House said in a statement.
Defense spending for the current fiscal year is pegged at $717 billion.
The White House raised concerns about the bill’s allocation of funds between base national defense and Overseas Contingency Operations accounts— “an allocation that exceeds the discretionary cap in place under current law.”
“As outlined in the budget request, the administration prefers to limit base national defense funding to the current law’s discretionary cap, while using both OCO and emergency funding to provide the additional necessary resources to support the National Defense Strategy,” the statement said.
“This approach is vital to ensuring that the nation has the funding necessary to defend itself without another budget agreement or legislation increasing the discretionary cap.”
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