Buried in the Department of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget summary is the “deferred construction of a carrier-capable berth in Guam” in favor of “more disciplined use of resources.” In reality, the Navy’s deferral first occurred in 2010, and the Pentagon has punted on making an investment decision each year since. The berth is a key step toward solidifying a U.S. Pacific presence; in June 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that by 2020, the Navy would position 60 percent of its Fleet, including 6 of 11 aircraft carriers, in the Pacific. Yet today the supporting infrastructure is not in place. Fortunately, building the carrier-capable berth is not a complicated engineering feat. As recently as 2008, a modern carrier pier was constructed in Yokosuka, Japan, to facilitate the arrival of our lone forward-deployed aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington (CVN-73). This $67 million project entailed wharf and power upgrades, new buildings and facilities, and dredging to support a deeper draft. Construction in Guam is similarly doable, and 2020 is fast approaching. So why has the Pentagon continually failed to act on this relatively straightforward strategic imperative?
In part, congressional inaction may be the reason. While it’s up to the White House and the Departments of State and Defense to craft the overall strategy, Congress funs the key initiatives that underpin its successful execution. Guam sends only one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, making it unlikely that military construction on the island receives the same level of attention as do the job-creating projects in the 50 U.S. states.
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