Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Funding for Marine Move May Fall Short

Funding for Guam buildup may fall short
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
September 18, 2007

FUNDING requirements for the military buildup on Guam are not yet fully identified and may be difficult to meet given other priorities and existing funding constraints.

This was among the findings of a comprehensive study on the Guam military buildup conducted by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.

According to the agency, various Department of Defense agencies that are to help support the influx of personnel and equipment into Guam will likely incur additional costs that are not yet included in the current DOD $13 billion cost estimate for the military buildup on Guam.

The $13 billion estimate only includes the costs to move the Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam, construct a Navy pier for a transient aircraft carrier, and station an Army ballistic missile defense task force.

GAO pointed out that this cost estimate does not include the costs of other defense agencies to support the additional military personnel and their dependents on Guam.

Furthermore, GAO warned that the government of Japan’s funds will not be made available until it has agreed to specific infrastructure plans for Guam.

The Marine Corps move from Okinawa to Guam is estimated to cost about $10.3 billion. Of this amount, the government of Japan has agreed to contribute about $6.1 billion to develop facilities and infrastructure on Guam.

In addition, the GAO study warned that if the Futenma replacement facility in Okinawa is not built, the Marine Corps relocation to Guam may be delayed. The facility is intended to replace the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and is estimated to cost $4 billion to $5 billion.

DOD officials view the success of the Futenma replacement facility as a key objective of the initiative that needs to be completed in order for other realignment actions to take place.

GAO noted that the government of Japan may encounter challenges in funding its share of the Marine Corps move, considering Japan’s other national priorities and its commitments associated with funding several other major realignments of U.S. forces in Japan under the Defense Policy Review Initiative.

At the time of the GAO study, the Japanese legislature had already approved $228 million for planning and initial construction funds for force posture realignments, including project planning in Guam, and authorized the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to invest in businesses for Guam development.

According to GAO, Department of Defense officials have also expressed concern regarding the department’s ability to obtain a continuous flow of funds adequate to pay its share of the current $13 billion cost estimate for the military buildup on Guam in light of ongoing operations and funding constraints and challenges.

These officials, whom GAO did not identify, informed the agency that obtaining funding for the military buildup on Guam at current estimated levels will be difficult because of the pressures the department faces in funding other defense priorities and activities, including the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and procurement costs for weapons systems.

In addition, there are other costs not included in the $13 billion cost estimate associated with the Marine Corps’ move to Guam that will increase overall costs.

Historically, GAO pointed out that the government of Japan has paid a large portion of the operation and maintenance costs of the Marine Corps in Okinawa in the form of host nation support that will be borne solely by DOD after the move.

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