Washington D.C. – Last week’s proposal by Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin, ranking republican John McCain and Senator James Webb was the ‘opening shot’ in a Hill-DOD process that will come down to ‘money.’
[HEAR Matt Kaye’s report by clicking on the link below]
Committee sources say on background, the Senators’ ideas on reducing the build-up ‘footprint’ on Guam were sent to DOD as a proposal. But the Senators are considering—at least at the staff-level—a possible way of handling it “legislatively.”
And that means, the Defense Reauthorization Bill, the panel plans to consider in June, though the same sources caution, no decision’s been made yet.
The House Armed Services Committee voted last week for just over 300-million or full-funding for military construction projects in Guam in Fiscal 2012. But the Levin-McCain-Webb announcement put a new spotlight on build-up issues the senate panel’s been asking the Pentagon about for several years.
Among those, whether there’s a specific build-up plan, beyond the environmental impact statement. Key problems have also influenced the Senators’ thinking…the need for a more realistic build-up timeline. Japan’s failure to fund troop training on Okinawa and the failure of Okinawa’s Governor to make decisions affecting the Futenma to Camp Schwab realignment.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo earlier this year, until the Futenma replacement issue is settled, “troops don’t leave Okinawa, and lands don’t get returned to the Japanese.”
Gates was still hopeful there might be a resolution this spring. But that was before Japan’s triple disaster, and the U-S debt ceiling crisis. The Pentagon’s press office insists in an e-mail this week that the Senators’ proposal “does not change our commitment to our current approach.”
But Hill sources and aides now say the Levin, McCain, Webb initiative has to be taken seriously—conditions have changed both in the Pacific and in Washington—and Levin and McCain, at the helm in the reauthorization process—will have a ‘huge say’ on what happens next.