U.S. Senate panel rejects budget for transferring Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam

May 17, 2012 Hideki Matsudo of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

On May 15, the Subcommittee on Military Construction within the Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Daniel Inouye, rejected the 26 million dollars requested from the draft fiscal 2013 spending bill (for the period October 2012 to September 2013) by the White House for the planned transfer of U.S. Marines in Okinawa to Guam. The Senate plenary session, which will be held soon, is expected to accept this decision by the committee without modification. The Senate Committee on Armed Services (chaired by Carl Levin), which has been tabling the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that decides the outline of the defense budget for fiscal 2013, will undoubtedly move into line with the rejection by the committee, making it likely that the budget for the transfer of Marines from Okinawa requested from the U.S. administration will be turned down for the second consecutive year.

Although in April the Japanese and the U.S. governments reconfirmed their intention to push ahead with the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, and released a joint statement to that effect, they have already come across a snag. The Japanese and the U.S. governments agreed to return part of military facilities and land occupied by the U.S. military south of Kadena Air Base on the premise that the U.S. government will transfer Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam. If the Senate turns down the budget for the transfer, this may influence the schedule for returning the facilities and land.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the budget for the transfer of the Marine Corps and the full House is expected to pass the NDAA before the end of May, but it has to pass through both houses of Congress. Because the Senate rejected the defense budget for fiscal 2012, the Japanese and the U.S. governments, which want to see the joint statement on the review of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan issued in April put into action, it would be a real setback if the Senate turns down the budget again. The NDAA for fiscal 2012 asks the government to submit to Congress a new deployment plan for U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The Subcommittee on Military Construction within the Appropriations Committee is not likely to accept budget allocated for the planned transfer of Marines in Okinawa unless the details are provided.

The NDAA will get through the committee in the near future and then will be laid on the table in the plenary session. Next week the Subcommittee on Military Construction within the Appropriations Committee is scheduled to adopt the NDAA for fiscal 2013. The committee has been inflexible on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, describing the relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district of Nago unrealistic. The budget for the transfer of the Marine Corps is expected to be rejected.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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