Tracking Your Taxes: U.S. Worker Provision on Military Project Could Bleed Taxpayers

It's the largest military construction project in decades, moving the United States Marine base in Okinawa, Japan, to the U.S. territory island of Guam

The project, which would relocate 8,000 Marines and build a new military base, is now garnering even more attention because it could cost American taxpayers billions.

The five-year project to rebuild the critical military installation in the Pacific will require an estimated 15,000 workers. Normally those workers would be locals or neighboring islanders, but Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) wants those jobs to go to Americans.

A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Abercrombie amended the House version of the 2010 Military Appropriations bill so that 70 percent of those workers would have to be from the U.S. 

Abercrombie says the provision will create well-paid jobs for unemployed construction workers.

His provision, however, adds an estimated $10 billion to the project's price tag, doubling the cost.

More On This...

Workers would have to be flown in from nearly 4,000 miles away, housed on the island and paid at Hawaii's prevailing wage, more than double that of Guam's.

For example, electricians would get about $40 an hour; on Guam, the average rate is $14 a hour.

"The impacts are going to be that it would basically drive up the cost of living on Guam," said Guam Gov. Felix Camacho in a recent interview with Fox News. "It would basically be a cancer that would spread."

Critics point out that Abercrombie's amendment benefits Hawaii's labor unions, whose support he needs in his run for governor of the Aloha State.

Federal election records show that building trade unions have contributed more than $580,000 to Abercrombie's campaign funds in the last 10 years.

Even some Hawaiians are against this provision. "One question to ask is should the entire country be paying 10 or 15 billion dollars more for this project that is intended to benefit a state that already has a relatively low unemployment rate," said Jamie Story, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Abercrombie's provision is not yet a done deal. Along with the Pentagon and Guam officials, the congressman is also facing opposition from Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye

In a recent letter to the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Inouye called the legislation "well- intentioned," but he said in the end it would be "detrimental to Guamanians and significantly increase the price of this move."