White House to Dial Back Guam Realignment, Sources Say
President Obama plans to scale down the realignment of 8,600-plus Marines from Okinawa to Guam to about 4,500 troops with the remaining contingent rotating to other points in the Asia-Pacific region, Bloomberg News reported Friday.
The remaining 4,000 Marines would be rotated through Australia, Subic Bay and, perhaps, a smaller base in the Philippines, and Hawaii, according to multiple sources cited by the news service. Some of the Marines still headed to Guam would not be permanently based there either, under the reworked plan, but instead would be deployed there on rotation.
About 9,000 dependents were to follow the Marines to Guam, under the original plan.
The change, if accurately reported, follows a year of setbacks for the realignment, including enactment of language in the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill suspending funding for the move until DOD meets multiple requirements established by lawmakers. In addition, the Japanese government in December proposed a budget that would drastically trim funding for the buildup on Guam and the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma elsewhere on Okinawa.
More recently, the Pentagon has been putting the final touches on its fiscal 2013 budget request, as well as its long-term budget, which needs to slash $487 billion in spending through 2021. Last June, the Government Accountability Office estimated the cost of the buildup on Guam at $23.9 billion or more.
The revised plan for the Marine Corps troops in Okinawa may result in the United States and Japan reopening the agreement under which Japan was to pay $6 billion toward the realignment, according to the story. The new decision would mean the move no longer is contingent on Japan finding a new site for Futenma, the sources said.
In a written statement, a DOD spokesman said the department “remains committed to establishing an operational Marine Corps presence on Guam and enhancing the alliance while significantly reducing the impact of U.S. bases on the Okinawan people.”
The spokesman added: “Recognizing the budget realities here, as well as the environmental challenges we face on Guam, the department is considering options that will fulfill our regional commitments most efficiently and effectively.”