U.S. budget bill puts back funding for Guam move

Planning for moving U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam will see a tempo increase in coming weeks as the U.S. Congress approves a $86 million funding allocation in the new budget for the relocation project.

The Congress, spurred by Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, and Carl Levin, D-Michigan, had slashed all funding for the relocation in fiscal year 2012, and parceled out only $26 million in the current fiscal year.  Their opposition centered on what they termed a lack of proper planning and high costs.  With the approval this week, the project is back on track and officials say they expect to see some facilities construction in Guam move forward.

The relocation of thousands of Marines from Okinawa was committed by President Barack Obama as part of his Asia-Pacific strategy shift, which also was intended to reduce opposition to the large number of U.S. forces based in Okinawa.  The revamped plan calls for 4,000 of the 19,000 Marines now on Okinawa to go to Guam, with thousands of others to go to Australia, Hawaii, and the U.S. west coast.

Kenichiro Sasae, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, was pleased with the congressional action, which he says will provide impetus to his government’s efforts to improve relations with Okinawa officials.  He says the political implications are ‘extremely important’.