GUAM – More affirmation for troop realignment in Japan came from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting.
On the heels of an Asia tour by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that was devoted to reassuring Japan and other Pacific allies that America will shift resources to the region, Mrs. Clinton met with Japan Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba in Honolulu on the summit sidelines this week. Both asserted their nations will proceed with relocating a U.S. Marine base from the crowded Futenma area of Okinawa to the island’s remote eastern coast – an imperative of the realignment plan long delayed by opposition in Okinawa.
Mr. Gemba affirmed that his government is on track to deliver the required environmental study for the relocation by yearend, after which, the government would apply next summer for the necessary coastal land reclamation. U.S. Congress has said tangible progress on the Futenma replacement facility must precede any further funding for the Marine realignment to Guam.
The Obama Administration continues to maintain that it will modernize its force posture in Asia-Pacific, even while a deadline to avoid precipitous “sequester” cuts at the Department of Defense draws uncomfortably near.
The threat of budget sequestration for Pentagon programs weighs heavy as the deficit super committee in Washington struggles to find a deal its bi-partisan members will endorse by the Nov. 23 deadline. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has repeatedly confirmed that, even with the current budget cuts, at least one Pentagon initiative — massive troop realignment in Japan and across Asia, including establishing an operational presence for the Marines on Guam – remains on track.
In a Pentagon news briefing this week, Mr. Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said the department is already planning for $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Their immediate concern is delivering a 5-year plan by February to reduce the budget by $260 billion.
Sequestration, however, would be a game changer for all Pentagon programs.
Sequester cuts would double the reduction to almost $1 trillion over 10 years. Should the deficit super committee and Congress fail to produce and endorse an alterative plan for getting the deficit under control, sequestration would affect the Pentagon budget beginning Jan. 2013. It would force the department to cut more than 20 percent in every area, leading to a force that is a shell without a core – a “hollow force,” Mr. Panetta said.
Congress “must show the necessary leadership by doing the job that they’ve been asked to do,” Mr. Panetta said. “That means identifying savings in the two- thirds of the federal budget that still has yet to be considered for deficit reduction along, in my view, with additional revenues.”
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