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Island leaders monitoring Senate actions

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - In the wake of provisions added to the Senate's version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, island leaders say it's too early to assume funding for the Guam military buildup will be blocked. Instead - now more than ever - Guam should show the Marines from Okinawa, Japan that we want them here.

According to Senator Judi Guthertz, who chairs the Legislature's Committee on the Guam Buildup, "Our focus should be to continue our efforts to show our marines and their families that we want to welcome them here with open arms." During an open markup session of the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, Chairperson Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri read off a provision to be included in the Senate's version of the 2012 NDAA authored by full committee chairman Carl Levin, ranking member John McCain and Sen. Jim Webb, which would stop funding for the Marines relocation from Okinawa to Guam until the Commandant of the Marines certifies which force lay down plan for the Pacific he prefers and until the Department of Defense provides a master plan to Congress outlining their plans for the implementation of the buildup.

The provision by the three U.S. senators follows their criticism of the DOD's plans to realign U.S. forces in Guam, Japan and Korea calling the plans "unaffordable, unworkable and unrealistic." It also follows a report last month by the general services agency critical of the funding and lack of information from the Department of Defense.

As we've reported already included in this fiscal year's NDAA is a requirement that both the Department of the Interior and the Defense Department submit a plan in July to congress outlining the troop transition and associated costs.

"Money has been an issue from the beginning of the planned buildup we've heard astronomical amounts of money coming from Japan and the us what's been absent in this entire equation has been the master plan from the DOD, which lays out what the specific costs would be," she said.

According to Guthertz, Guam should be patient and see what happens adding that we cannot panic or go into depression of doom and gloom. "Our Marines will not be going to the Philippines or to Australia or anywhere else but Guam," she said. "When you here from the Marine Commandant what his plans are for the buildup and what is important both in Japan here and Korea, I think it would be very difficult for congress to back track on what the DOD has laid out."

Unlike the Senate, the House has been supportive of the military buildup and provided funding in its recently passed version of the 2012 NDAA for military construction projects associated with the Marines realignment. According to Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo because the specific details of the Senate's version of the NDAA have not yet been publicly released, it's not clear what impacts they may have on the buildup plans but does warn that the Senate's actions could have unintended consequences for the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan.

She expects the Obama Administration and DOD to weigh-in on the Senate provisions and to comment on their feasibility and potential impacts with alliance partners. We should note the senate's version is not final.  Hearings on the NDAA are being held over the next couple days with the full committee.  

The Senate provisions will ultimately be reconciled with the House bill during conference committee later this year.

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