U.S., Japan Committed to Transformation Despite Delays, Admiral Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2008 Both the United States and Japan remain committed to moving about 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, but budget constraints could cause the process to take longer and cost more than initially expected, the senior U.S. commander in the Pacific reported.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating discussed military transformation initiatives, including the Defense Policy Review Initiative focused on the U.S.-Japan alliance, during sessions in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday and at the Foreign Press Center on Nov. 5.
The plan includes moving 8,000 Marines and their families from the Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam, relocating two U.S. air bases in Japan from urban to rural areas, and realigning the Japan Self-Defense Forces to complement the U.S. realignments.
The plan is expected to reduce the U.S. footprint in Japan to about 10,000 Marines, while taking advantage of opportunities provided in Guam.
“The two governments of the United States and Japan have recommitted at the very highest levels -- prime minister and president -- to the eventual success of the DPRI,” Keating said at the Foreign Press Center.
But budgetary challenges “measured in the billions of dollars” that both countries face could cause slight delays in how quickly the relocation occurs, he said. Japan agreed to pick up about $6 billion of the cost, and initial plans called for the move to be completed by 2014.
A Government Accountability Office report issued in May noted that some Defense Department and Guam officials believed the schedule was overly optimistic in light of financial shortfalls and infrastructure requirements in Guam.
“It’ll take a little bit longer to effect – we won’t be done by 2014, or maybe even 2015, but it’s about a decade in execution,” Keating said. “It will cost us a little bit more money than we currently have budgeted, but our countries remain committed.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Guam in May to get a firsthand look at growth under way to prepare for the Marines’ arrival.
The secretary took a helicopter tour of Andersen Air Force Base, Naval Base Guam and other island facilities to see construction already started in preparation of the arrival of members of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and an estimated 9,000 family members.
“All in all, it will be one of the largest movements of military assets in decades and continue the historic mission of the United States military presence on Guam: to serve as the nation’s first line of defense and to maintain a robust military presence in a critical part of the world,” Gates said.
Keating called the recent move of the USS George Washington to Japan a broad-reaching transformational issue in the region. The Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier arrived at Fleet Activities Yokosuka on Sept. 25, and headed out to sea Oct. 1 for its first operational training in the region.
“The support of the Japanese government in moving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Japan was … significant,” Keating said. “It’s been years in the making, and it’s a very strong signal of the spirit of cooperation that’s so prevalent in our dealings with Japan.”
Keating spoke in broad terms about challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, which spans half the globe, emphasizing the importance of partnerships in the U.S. security cooperation plan.
“We want to represent the strength and the capabilities of the United States military, but we don’t want to overdo that,” he said. “We would much rather have a cooperative and collaborative atmosphere that we enjoy in almost every part of our [area of responsibility] rather than rely on military power.”
Meanwhile, Keating said U.S. Pacific Command is watching closely the “potential areas of concern” in its region. These include terrorist threats in the southern Philippines from the Jamaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf organizations, as well as tensions between India and Pakistan, North and South Korea and China and Taiwan.
Keating said he continuously emphasizes the importance of multilateral cooperation that promotes regional stability during his meetings with military, political and commercial leaders.
“We do all that we can to reassure all of our partners and allies and friends in the region that we are all about a stable, secure environment with economic prosperity for all,” he said.