Thursday, September 17, 2009

DOD exec: Japan has right to question transfer cost

DOD exec: Japan has right to question transfer cost

Wednesday, 16 September 2009 01:40 by Tiffany Sukola

Although reports from Japanese media say friction exists between the U.S. and Japan over the price tag for military buildup projects on Guam, Department of Defense officials say they are on track with the preparations for relocating the nearly 8,000 Marines from Okinawa.

Derek Mitchell, principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said yesterday he does not foresee any additional opposition that would delay projects preparing the island for the Marines’ 2014 arrival.

The Kyodo News Agency last month reported that there were serious differences between the two governments over a housing project that will eventually house the relocated Marines and their families.

Japanese officials have specifically said that U.S. estimates for the housing units were too high. Conflicting interpretations over the quality standards for the housing project could also potentially delay the start of construction according to the Japanese news outlet.

However, Mitchell said the U.S. government does not see Japanese concerns as a sign of opposition, but rather as the foreign government’s right to question how their money is being spent.

According to Mitchell, the Japanese government is absorbing more than half of the overall projected relocation costs, something the defense executive gives Japan credit for.

As Variety reported last month, the decision to take on $6 billion of the total costs marks the first time a Japanese government has agreed to share the costs of building and improving facilities at a U.S. base overseas.

“Anyone funding anything questions if their money is being used efficiently,” said Mitchell adding that officials in Washington are prepared to answer any financial questions from the Japanese government.

Mitchell was on island yesterday to meet with local officials to discuss the progress of military buildup projects.

According to Mitchell, he wants to reassure the people of Guam that the DOD is taking the lead role regarding the buildup which he calls strategically beneficial to the U.S. government.

“We’re expecting a lot from Guam, so Guam should expect a lot from the government,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell said he has personally seen great progress over the past months despite Japanese media reports that claim the housing project is already delayed by at least six months.

Mitchell stated however that as the 2014 deadline looms, island residents can be assured that buildup projects will be completed on time.

“This is a complex operation,” said Mitchell adding that progress depends on politics in Japan, the U.S. as well as on Guam. “It will be tough until the last Marine is relocated to their new home.”

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