GUAM – The Department of Defense may not wait until the traditional February timeframe to reveal its spending plan for the next fiscal year. The early disclosure will be a peek into how the Pentagon plans to slim down over the next decade by about $450 billion while still increasing its resource commitment in Asia where the U.S. and Japan plan a massive troop realignment.
Defense sources told The Hill that Senior Pentagon officials are likely to disclose the results of a far-reaching strategy review and the leaner 2013 spending plan to key lawmakers before February. The spending blueprint is expected to reflect the as-yet-undisclosed findings of the Pentagon’s national security assessment and a five-year spending plan to achieve the first $260 billion in savings.
Of interest to Guam military buildup watchers is whether the cut for fiscal year 2013 — expected to be around $25 billion — will take resources away from that Asia-Pacific realignment. Military expansion projects to establish a new base for the Marine Corps on Guam as part of the nation’s promise to secure the region have been stalled while Congress has spent the months since August fighting over a deficit reduction plan.
This January, if Congress fails to pass a balanced plan, cuts at the Pentagon could balloon to almost $1 trillion over the decade. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned such sequestration would do “catastrophic damage to our military and its ability to protect the country.”
The sequester cuts would be taken across-the-board, sparing no defense program. But, as Mr. Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September, it is $450 billion — and not $1 trillion — that Pentagon is planning for.
To keep Pacific allies calm about defense cuts, the Obama Administration has worked hard since the summer to reassure Japan and other nation friends in Asia that beefing up America’s presence in the region remains a priority.
On his first trip to Asia as Secretary of Defense in October, Mr. Panetta repeatedly told Pacific allies that the United States intends to grow its resources here by continuing to build regional cooperation and fulfilling a long delayed a troop realignment agreement with Japan.
Meeting with Japan’s Defense Minister during that tour, Mr. Panetta specifically cited the Guam buildup, saying “[The U.S. and Japan] are both very committed to the principles of the realignment roadmap, including the establishment of an operational Marine presence on Guam.”
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