Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon today to re-examine U.S. military basing plans in East Asia, saying billions of dollars may be saved in South Korea, Japan and Guam.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, joined Senators John McCain of Arizona, the panel’s senior Republican, and Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the personnel subcommittee, in urging changes to a basing agreement with Japan that was signed in 2006.
They called for:
-- Examining the feasibility of moving Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, instead of building a replacement facility.
-- Reducing the Marine Corps presence on Guam by rotating in combat units that are based elsewhere.
-- Putting on hold realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea pending further review.
“The significant estimated cost growth associated with some projects is simply unaffordable in today’s increasingly constrained fiscal environment,” Levin said in a news release. “Political realities in Okinawa and Guam, as well as the enormous financial burden imposed on Japan by the devastation resulting from the disastrous March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, also must be considered.”
McCain said, “The Asia-Pacific region’s growing role in the global distribution of power requires us to consistently review and update plans for the U.S. military’s role.”
The senators, in their statement, said their proposal would reduce the American footprint in Okinawa, where residents have periodically protested the presence of U.S. troops.
Committed to Plan
A Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan, said the Defense Department is committed to its base realignment plans.
“These agreements are good for the people of Okinawa, Japan as a whole, and the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Lapan said by e-mail.
The Marine Corps’ Futenma relocation will return land to the Okinawan people and move thousands of U.S. troops and their dependents out of the most densely populated southern part of the air station, he said.
“After the relocation is completed, the average citizen of Okinawa will see and hear far fewer U.S. troops and aircraft than they do today,” he said.