Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Washington D.C. - Short of a full Master Plan that won’t be ready until at least next year, the end of build-up funding restrictions may have to wait until Congress prepares the Pentagon’s Fiscal ’15 budget, next year. 

A Pentagon spokesman says an Environmental Impact statement must be completed first, likely by next year, before the Master Plan can be finished.

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Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo’s office says it hopes some kind of “preliminary” plan will do the trick to get Congress to release restrictions on spending for the build-up.

Asked about that in two separate e-mails, Senate Armed Services Committee staff did not respond. A press spokesman insisted any questions be formally submitted.

Committee Chair Carl Levin insisted at an April hearing on the Fiscal ’14 Pentagon budget, and amid recent progress on Futenma replacement on Okinawa, that the Master Plan must come first.

Levin:
“After we receive that plan, we will be in a position to judge it.  But until that plan is forthcoming, the Committee has deferred action on associated requirements, until previously-adopted conditions are met. So, while I support the concept of re-stationing Marines from Okinawa to Guam, it must be done in a fiscally and operationally sound manner.”

Admiral Samuel Locklear last month could not tell Senator John McCain when Secretary Chuck Hagel’s office would be ready with a master plan.

The Navy insisted publicly last year that a complete new Environmental Impact statement is needed for the build-up.

Assistant Secretary Jackalyne Pfannenstiel told a Senate appropriations panel in March, last year:

Pfannenstiel: “We will need, most likely, to redo our environmental analysis for Guam. That’s a couple-year process.  Until you have completed that, it’s hard to know with specificity, what the construction requirements will be.”

Bordallo argues a streamlined Environmental Assessment would save time and still meet Federal requirements.

Barring such a streamlined approach, an abbreviated process, that leads to relaxing build-up restrictions next year,  seems unlikely.  And Senate Armed Services won’t  expand on Chairman Levin’s comments.

Levin says the build-up must be considered against “the backdrop of the budget constraints of sequestration.”

Earlier figures put the build-up cost at between $18-billion and $23-billion, a big ticket item, and a ‘big target’ in an era of big budget cuts.