Guam – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congresswoman Madelleine Bordallo at a House Armed Services hearing that DoD stands behind the Guam build-up. But his comments suggested cost will be a limiting factor.
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Bordallo told Panetta that his Deputy, Ashton Carter, told a recent Senate hearing, the Okinawa-to-Guam realignment is “on the table for cutting.”
“That is unhelpful,” she said.
Bordallo said Carter’s comment goes against the U.S. agreement with Japan. And with other actions by the Navy, it has created a “sense of uncertainty about the build-up.” One she’s trying hard to reverse.
Bordallo then asked the Defense Secretary if the Pentagon still supports the Guam realignment, outlined in the Guam International Agreement and the implementation plan. Panetta said, “Obviously, we continue to stand by that agreement. We’ll continue to work with Japan on this. The challenge is going to be, to try to make sure that we do it in a cost-effective way. That’s going to be the challenge. But, as to what we need to do, as to the effort, to try to reduce our presence there, I think that’s something we’re committed to.”
Bordallo then slammed the Senate Armed Services panel’s efforts, unsuccessful so far, to suspend the entire military build-up, calling it “unwise,” given the “threat environment” in the Pacific.
But when Bordallo asked Panetta about the timing of the DoD build-up ‘master plan’ that the Senate Armed Services Committee is demanding before any new build-up spending, Panetta had this to say: “First of all, I’m not sure about a military ‘build-up.’ But, at this point, I think what we’re engaging in, right now, as a result of the number that we’ve been handed by the Congress, is going to be an effort to reduce the budget in responsible way.”
Panetta told lawmakers the Pentagon is already faced with making close to half-a-billion in cuts. And that automatic cuts should they be forced by the failure of lawmakers next month to come up with fresh reductions, would be like “putting a gun to the head” of the military.