Admiral reports tangible progress to HASC - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Admiral reports tangible progress to HASC

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - In the nation's capitol, commander of U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Robert Willard told representatives of the House Armed Services Committee that tangible progress is being made for the military buildup on Guam, he likewise allayed concerns about funding and commitments from Japan.

"Tangible progress is often described as the time when we can move a single Marine off Okinawa to Guam," said Madeleine Bordallo. During the HASC hearing, Guam's congressional delegate received assurances from Willard that tangible progress is being made with the implementation of the Guam International Agreement, one of the major stumbling blocks admittedly has been an agreement on the location of a Futenma Replacement Facility. 

The FRF is critical for the Marines relocation from Okinawa to Guam to transpire. "We are progressing toward the signed commitment by the governor of Okinawa to begin to make the actual contracting and movement of soil for the first time in the FRF location. I think there are some issues to finalize with regard to runway configuration and so forth," he said.

And while progress is being made on the FRF front, questions have arisen as to whether Japan will stick to funding commitments for the relocation. Japan has agreed to fund at least $6 billion of the $10 billion price tag for the Marines relocation, but with the country contending with the worst catastrophe in its history, will it still be able to make such a large investment? Admiral Willard at this point doesn't feel there's a reason to think the Japanese government will deviate from the U.S. Japan Defense Policy Review Initiative.

The DPRI establishes a framework for the future of U.S. force structure in Japan. The goal of the DPRI being to reduce the burden of the U.S. military presence on Japanese communities while maintaining a continuing presence of U.S. forces in the region. He said, "They have continued to make overtures that despite the crises that is currently ongoing in Japan that they'll be able to continue to proceed with the tenants of DPRI of which FRF and movement of 8,000 Marines of Guam is only one of 19 actions that DPRI contains."

While Admiral Willard was confident in Japan, he wasn't so confident in the U.S. commitment in terms of the budget for military construction. "I remain concerned that there be sufficient commitment within the milcon budget to proceed with the infrastructure development in particular attendant to the Marine Corps facilities as they've been described so the infrastructure in and around the area south of Andersen Air Force Base, Finegayan and the infrastructure needed on the defense post themselves in the area of Andersen Air Force Base both very critical to precede the development of housing and other military construction that comes later."

According to Admiral Willard the budget for military construction will be up for discussion next week during which the Guam buildup will be a key issue. "We intend to discuss Guam initiatives in particular," he said.

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