Editorial: U.S. scholars request base closure as new base construction goes against global trend


December 7, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo


The Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition (OBRACC), a group comprised of U.S. experts and former high-level public officials, recently released a letter to Congress calling for the closure of U.S. bases in Okinawa, Europe, the Middle East, and other overseas locations.

It is a significant request that takes the big picture into account.


OBRACC perceives problems with the presence of U.S. military bases around the world since the end of the Cold War, such as military tension heightening antagonism toward the United States and damage to local environments.

Forty advocates signed the letter including former high-level U.S. military officials, leaders of U.S. think tanks, scholars, and experts with a wide range of knowledge.

Some reasons OBRACC made this request are because maintaining overseas bases is expensive, advancements in military technology make rapid response from the continental United States possible, and the presence of overseas bases antagonize neighboring countries such as Russia and China.

Because there is a hefty budget being used for maintaining and building bases abroad, the budgets for domestic education and welfare are being diminished.

It could be said a request that takes these circumstances into consideration is a valuable recommendation based on deeply practical analysis.

Actually, for a time the U.S. was greatly reducing its military stationing abroad.

In 1945 the U.S. had more than 2000 base installations, but these numbers have declined at times such as after the Vietnam War and after the Cold War.

In 2015 U.S. bases were consolidated due to a sharp cut to the national defense budget.

The U.S. has reduced its overseas installations by about 30 percent compared with the 761 overseas installations present 10 years ago.

However, in those 10 years the U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ) only reduced its installations by 3.

This is likely because a high ratio of U.S. military stationing costs falling on Japan.

The cost of host nation support for USFJ stationing (the omoiyari yosan) has risen to about 189.3 billion yen annually.

Former U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, an advocate on the OBRACC letter to Congress, mentioned that stationing of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa is not being reduced due to circumstances making it less expensive than maintaining the Corps on U.S. soil.

It is fresh in the public mind that during the presidential campaign, President Trump, prior to assuming office, did not clearly understand the high ratio of these expenses on Japan and hinted at withdrawing USFJ troops.

The ratio of USFJ expenses borne by Japan indicates the likelihood that the U.S. will withdraw from Japan of its own accord.

By providing enormous compensation Japan is actually keeping the U.S. military from such a course of action.

One might ask what that means for Japan’s financial affairs. Japan’s combined national and regional debts already exceed one quadrillion yen.

Although Japan has low social security expenditures, each year the scope increases by 500 billion yen.

According to trial calculations by the Okinawa Prefectural Government, by the time the new base being constructed in Henoko is completed, the cost of construction will reach 2.55 trillion yen.

It should be verified whether or not the new base is truly necessary.

In February this year the Ryukyu Shimpo interviewed former Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma.

Due to advancements in military technology he asked, “Do they need bases in Henoko or Futenma?”

The OBRACC letter contains similar concerns.

The plan to relocate Futenma Air Station to Henoko has been around for more than 20 years.

There have been great changes in world affairs and technology in that time.

The base concentration on Okinawa creates ever more tension with China and other neighboring countries.

It is unreasonable to do something like establish a new base.

Such actions clearly run counter to the global trend toward reducing U.S. military stationing.

Those costs must not be allowed to fall heavily onto the shoulders of the taxpayers.


(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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