Obama signs defense bill, approves buildup expenses

Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo on Thursday announced President Barack Obama had signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2016, saying in a statement that the law’s investments to the military buildup and local infrastructure “are important milestones.”

The law approves the following expenditures — nearly $272.3 million on military construction projects in Guam, and another $126.4 million on civilian water and wastewater projects.

“It helps to fulfill the federal government’s commitment to ensuring that the buildup is good for Guam’s civilian population as well as the (U.S. Department of Defense),” Bordallo said.

Most of the $272.3 million appropriation for the military buildup — more than $187 million — will go to the Navy. Roughly $125.7 million of the Navy’s appropriation is earmarked for a live-fire training range complex near Ritidian.

The budget provides DoD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program with a separate $75 million appropriation.

The program establishes “buffer” partnerships with conservation groups or state and local governments so easements can be acquired near military installations and natural habitats.

The Air Force is set to get an appropriation of $85.2 million — $34.4 million of which is to be used for corrosion control and composite repair, according to Bordallo’s announcement.

Directive

The defense budget also requires Obama to establish a Presidential Policy Directive, which is meant to ensure the military’s rebalance strategy in the Asia-Pacific region stays adequately funded under future presidents.

The Directive — a venture Bordallo said she and other members of Congress pushed for — will guide relevant federal agencies “on how to implement and fund the rebalance strategy.”

With the relocation of about 5,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa estimated to cost $8.7 billion, recent figures show, Japan has dedicated $3 billion to the Guam relocation. To ensure the funds are being used properly, the budget bill includes language that “provides for greater accountability and oversight” of those monies.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga visited the island last month for a two-day trip to follow up on the progress of the relocation plan.

During his visit, he said he appreciated Guam’s efforts to host the Marines and to see the progress “with (his) own eyes,” according to new reports.

About 9,000 of the 28,000 U.S. troops in Okinawa is set to be relocated with more than 4,000 of them coming to Guam.

Guam’s Marine base will be constructed on existing federal land near Anderson Air Force Base, news reports state. Marine housing is expected to be developed within the Air Force base.

One concern Bordallo had with the spending measure was certain budget cuts made to the Army and National Guard “readiness accounts” — money for training and maintenance — and the Sea Cadet Corps program. She warned that the such cuts could have “unintended consequences.”

“I do remain concerned that certain cuts will negatively impact our military readiness,” she said in a press release, adding: “These cuts may have unintended consequences and I hope that we will be able to address these issues next year.”