Senator Webb: Restructure Base Agreement Before Funding Guam Realignment

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Guam – Virgina Senator Jim Webb issued the following statement regarding the conclusion of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting.
“I welcome the ministers’ affirmation that the U.S.-Japan Alliance remains ‘indispensable.’ During my time in the Senate, I have consistently maintained that the U.S. must reinvigorate its role as the guarantor of stability in East Asia.

“The decisions announced today with respect to basing realignments were predictable.  However, the reality of extensive delay in completing the Futenma Replacement Facility as it is now proposed underscores the importance of resolving U.S. basing realignments in a more realistic manner for the good of our alliance and for our strategic posture in East Asia. This is precisely what I, along with Senators Levin and McCain, recommended to the Secretary of Defense last month. Subsequently, I have engaged all levels of the U.S. and Japanese military and civilian leadership.

“I am confident that the provisions on East Asia basing in the defense authorization bill approved by the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week will be adopted.  At that time, Congress will have provided a clear statement of intent to the Department of Defense regarding the need to evaluate and eventually adopt more realistic alternatives.

“The concerns regarding costs and feasibility raised by the Armed Services Committee should be fully addressed before Congress funds the proposed realignments.  I will continue to advocate a workable, cost-effective solution to reduce the burden on the Okinawan people, fulfill our commitment to the U.S.-Japan security alliance, and strengthen the U.S. contribution to regional security.”

Drawing on the Senators’ recommendations, the Senate Committee on Armed Services approved the following major provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act relating to U.S. military basing in East Asia:

* Prohibits funding the realignment of U.S. Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam until the Commandant of the Marine Corps provides an updated force lay-down. The Secretary of Defense must also submit a master plan to Congress detailing construction costs and schedules for all projects necessary to realize the Commandant’s force lay-down, and the Secretary must certify to Congress that tangible progress has been made to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (Okinawa, Japan).

* Requires the Department of Defense to study the feasibility of relocating some of the Air Force assets at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa to other bases in Japan or to Guam, and moving Marine Corps aviation assets currently at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Kadena Air Base rather than building an expensive replacement facility at Camp Schwab.

* Cuts approximately $150 million in military construction projects requested for the realignment of U.S. Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam because the projects are not necessary in this fiscal year.

* Prevents the obligation of any funds for tour normalization on the Korean Peninsula until the Secretary of the Army provides the Congress with a master plan including all costs and schedule to complete the program, and requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to perform an analysis of alternatives justifying the operational need for normalization.  Regarding this provision, the Committee said it  “reaffirms its unwavering support for the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea,” noting “the importance of the alliance and the contribution of American forces on the Korean Peninsula to regional peace and security remain unchanged.”

These provisions reflect the observations and recommendations that Senator Webb made to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, in early May 2011 following their visits to Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, and Tokyo in April.

The Senator’s proposal was based on his long-standing interaction with the Pacific region that spans more than 40 years, including service as a Marine Corps infantry officer during the Vietnam war, a defense planner who wrote a region-wide facilities analysis for the Governor of Guam in 1974, a Department of Defense official whose responsibilities included evaluating mobilization scenarios, a writer and journalist who has spent a great deal of time in Asia, and most recently as a member of the United States Senate.  As chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Webb has visited East and Southeast Asia regularly during his time in the U.S. Senate.