Debate continues on defense act
Guam - It's now up to the House and the Senate to come up with an amicable agreement on what gets cut and what gets added in, and according to Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, if language is left intact in the Senate's version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act it could have a detrimental effect on the timeline for the military buildup.
U.S. Senate Armed Services Chairperson Carl Levin, Ranking Member John McCain and Senator Jim Webb got exactly what they wanted in the senate's version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. "The major step we've taken is to put all these changes on hold and to require to some analysis and cost and to take an honest look at what the current costs are what the alternatives are," said Levin.
Included in the Senate's version of the 2012 NDAA:
- $150 million on the chopping block for projects for the Marines relocation from Okinawa to Guam. The committee deemed the project not necessary in 2012
- $33 million cut from the Office of Economic Adjustment for Guam facilities support, which appear to be ahead of need
- A prohibition of funds for the Marines relocation until the commandant of the Marine Corps provides an updated force laydown, a submission of a master plan to Congress from the Department of Defense detailing construction costs and schedule of all projects, and the secretary must certify to Congress that tangible progress has been made to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
- Requires the DOD to study the feasibility of relocating air force assets at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa and moving Marine Corps aviation assets currently at Futenma to Kadena rather than building an expensive replacement facility at Camp Schwab
According to Levin, a master plan has been long overdue. "What we're trying to do is get a review to open the this thing up. I think people have kind of hidden their heads in the sand and because everyone just says we got a plan and we're just going to keep going. The problem is the current plan isn't affordable its not workable. And on the Okinawa part the so called Camp Schwab is a so expensive so massive its so unachievable and so unwise to just act as though its going to be built and troops are going to move there and that would open up facilities on Okinawa for return to Okinawans and Japanese," he said.
The public release of the Senate's version of the 2012 NDAA comes as bilateral meetings are scheduled to be held between Japan and the U.S. in the nation's capitol this week. NHK Media in Japan have already reported that during that meeting a joint announcement will be made that the 2014 deadline for the Marines relocation will not be met. During a hearing last week on the FY2012 Defense Department budget request soon to be outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates couldn't provide a definitive answer when asked a question on this very subject by Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski. "Are we going to meet that 2014 completion deadline that target deadline given what the costs estimated are at this point in time," she said. Gates replied, "In all honesty, Secretary Clinton and I will be meeting with the Japanese on Monday and Tuesday and should have a better idea after that meeting."
Until then, according to Senator Levin he stresses their version of the NDAA should be viewed as a means to come back to reality. He said, "It is important for people to realize that we expect to act with our allies together we understand that people feel more comfortable to continue on an existing plan until something else takes it place. But that is an illusion, there's no point in pretending to ourselves that we are going to implement plans that cannot be implemented. Particularly the huge Camp Schwab which cannot be realistically be implemented. So we are going to move together ultimately with our allies, we want to open the door to reconsideration so we put all these changes on hold that our allies should be reassured that we're not reducing our presence in the area we feel is essential not only maintain a presence but also do it with our allies and that we also do it honestly and affordably."
Bordallo meanwhile is not pleased with the Senate's version, stating "The proposed cuts made in the Senate's version of the NDAA are contradictory to the recent positions taken by the Senate which have indicated that infrastructure improvements need to be made on Guam to accommodate the needs of the buildup. She adds that the language requiring certain certifications may be an impediment to progress and may have a detrimental effect on the timeline of the buildup. The congresswoman stresses this is not yet law and that the House and Senate must reconcile their different versions of the NDAA.
She says she will be fighting for Guam and working with the Obama Administration and DOD to provide a clear position on these issues.