Guam – It now appears that a major shift in the Guam military buildup is under way.
Unsourced reports from 2 respected News agencies in recent days are painting a picture of a significantly smaller military buildup for Guam and a major shift in the U.S. position on Futenma’s re-location in Okinawa.
For more than a year, the message from Washington has been that the size of the buildup would be scaled down and its pace would be slowed. Funding is currently on hold while the Department of Defense prepares its Master Plan for final release.
Now both the Kyodo and Bloomberg news services are reporting on what appear to be aspects of a revised Master Plan for the Guam buildup which, for the first time, put a number on the reduced size of the Marine to be deployed here, 4,500 rather than 8,600 as originally planned. That cuts the deployment by nearly half.
This past Wednesday it was Japan’s Kyodo news service that quoted un-named Pentagon sources as saying that 3-thousand of the roughly 8-thousand U.S. Marines in Okinawa would be sent some where else, beside Guam, possibly Hawaii, leaving just 5-thousand or so based here.
Now today [Friday], on the heels of the Kyodo report, a more detailed report from Bloomberg, also quoting un-named sources, says that the number of Marines destined for Guam would be smaller still, just 4,500.
The other 4-thousand or so Marines now stationed in Okinawa would instead be rotated, throughout the Asia-Pacific region at other bases such as in Australia, and the Philippines. Although the Philippine constitution bars permanent basing of foreign troops, rotating U.S. troops through the PI has been ongoing for years.
Thursday, Marine Commander Leslie Hull-Ryde told PNC News that the Pentagon remains “committed to a military presence in Japan and the Asia-Pacific that is geographically distributed, and politically sustainable.”
The Bloomberg quotes Commander Hull-Ryde as saying that DoD remains “committed to developing Guam as a strategic hub and to establishing an operational Marine Corps presence on Guam by relocating some Marines from Okinawa to Guam.”
But her statement goes on to say “recognizing the budget realities here, as well as the environmental challenges we face on Guam, the Department is considering options that will fulfill our regional commitments most efficiently and effectively.”
In response to Bloomberg’s report Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo issued a statement to PNC News that reads, in part: “I caution the Administration on changing the force laydown on Guam to be solely rotational. There must be a balance between a robust permanent presence of Marines as well as a rotational component. It’s foolish to believe a rotational component would save any money in the long run.”
Bloomberg also reports that the Obama Administration has decided to no longer tie the movement of Marines out of Okinawa to progress on the relocation of the Marine air station at Futenma..
In short that means the Marines stationed in Okinawa could be moved to Guam and elsewhere, regardless of the slow pace of the Futenma relocation, although that may require renegotiating existing agreements with Japan.
Guam Buildup Committee Chair Senator Judi Guthertz highlighted that aspect of the report saying the removal of the Futenma issue could clear a number of barriers which have held up the buildup.
Bottom line, the buildup on Guam may be significantly smaller, but it make happen sooner.