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$10 Billion for What?

12:57 PM, Jul 20, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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CQ's Josh Rogin reports:

It took more than a decade for the Clinton and Bush administrations to negotiate agreements with Japan to reduce the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, including relinquishing a Marine Corps airfield on the crowded southern end of the island. Now some influential members of Congress are having second thoughts about the arrangement, and their intervention might set back the whole deal, along with U.S.-Japan relations.

The plan, for instance, includes transferring 8,000 Marines now stationed on Okinawa - roughly half the Marines who are there - to Guam. When the House Armed Services Committee drew up its fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill last month, however, Democrat Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii added a provision to require that wages paid to construction workers on Guam preparing for the Marines' arrival be based not on the local scale but on wage rates in Hawaii, which are two-and-a-half times higher. Abercrombie says his provision is needed to bring skilled U.S. workers to the island, particularly unemployed Hawaiians. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would add about $10 billion to the transfer's cost.

Leaving aside the question of whether moving Marines to Guam is in the best interests of U.S. security, can the United States government really afford to spend an extra $10 billion in order to create jobs that would just as surely be created without spending one more nickel than has already been budgeted?