Guam – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insists the Marines in Okinawa will be “forward deployed” in the Pacific, wherever they go, but not returned to bases in the States as one top lawmaker suggests.
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Even before the Okinawa-Guam realignment is worked out, another fight is brewing, whether to bring some of the Marines in Japan home to the States.
House Armed Services Chair Buck McKeon at a DoD Budget hearing: “My thinking is really evolving on this whole Guam issue. And, when we’re talking about reducing the Marines by 20-thousand, maybe one way to do that would be to just bring the Marines that we take out of Okinawa, bring to Camp Pendleton or some, you know, bring ‘em home.”
That did not sit well with Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, who, her voice rising, asked Secretary Panetta about the importance of keeping the Marines “forward deployed.”
Panetta called a “forward presence” an “essential element” of the U.S. Pacific strategy.
Panetta: “My view is that we need a Marine presence that is forward. I do not want to draw that Marine presence back to this country. I think it has to be forward, in the Pacific.”
Bordallo: “Thank you.”
Panetta: “We’re trying to be innovative in the way we’re doing that,” said Panetta pointing to the rotational presence U.S. Marines recently assumed in Australia.
Bordallo however is seeking a permanent Marine presence in Guam, which was backed at the hearing by top armed services Democrat Adam Smith.
Separately, Bordallo called the Secretary’s decision to pull 18 Global Hawk ‘Block 30’ reconnaissance aircraft shortsighted,” when it costs $220-million a year less to operate than the ‘U-2.’ She called Panetta’s move a “complete reversal” of an earlier position.
Panetta says the Pentagon is committed to “unmanned systems,” but has to decide which are “most cost-effective.” And that was the rationale.