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Hawaii move planned for Okinawa’s 3rd Marines

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2008-04-25

Political wrangling that has stalled the planned move of Okinawa-based Marines to Guam has the US Navy and Congress eyeing a shift instead to Hawaii.

Congressional funding to design new facilities to accommodate the 3rd Marine Division and 12th Marine Regiment was announced this week by Neil Abercrombie, one of Hawaii’s two members of the House of Representatives. “The Department of the Navy will begin the budgeting process for the construction,” said Abercrombie, “which will initially trigger spending on design funds to obtain architectural and engineering services for a variety of projects at Kaneohe Bay.

Abercrombie, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, and a senior member of the Seapower Subcommittee, which oversees the Navy and Marines, says $21.2 million has been allocated to design the construction of a multiple facilities at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe. He said “all of this construction strengthens Hawaii’s strategic role in the Pacific, as well as our local economy.”

The Marine Corps has declined comment, saying only that “it hasn’t been decided yet,” but Abercrombie indicates otherwise, announcing specific projects involving a number of units now based at Camps Hansen, Courtney and Schwab on Okinawa. “Funding for actual construction is expected in the future to build the necessary facilities related to the Department of Defense plan to increase active-duty strength in the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 over five years,” the congressman said.

Some $6.8 million is earmarked for 3rd Marine Division facilities, supporting the 3rd Marine Division relocation from Okinawa, providing company and division headquarters, an armory, operational draining facilities, motor transport maintenance, electronics and communications maintenance, and supply. Abercrombie says $4.8 million is to design bachelor enlisted quarters, “providing 228 bachelor enlisted quarters modules to house 446 Marines to support the 3rd Marine Division relocation from Okinawa., while another $4.8 million will design another 200 Marine Corps bachelor enlisted quarters to house 400 Marines.

A $1.8 million line item is to design an Artillery Battery Complex comprised of a heavy gun shop, automotive shop, armory storage, company command post and general storage. A two-story command headquarters and single story communications and electrical maintenance shop for 3rd Radio Battalion will be designed using $1.5 million in funding. The 12th Marine Regiment Headquarters Facilities will be designed at a cost of $1.5 million to “support the 12th Marine Regiment relocation from Okinawa and provide company and division headquarters, an armory, operational training facilities, motor transport maintenance, electronics and communications maintenance and supply.

Abercrombie, who sponsored the legislation, says “the military housing also alleviates competition between military and civilian and civilian families for rental homes throughout the community, making affordable housing more accessible to local families.” The congressman praised military leaders, noting “This is part of the military’s ‘grow the force’ initiative which focuses, in part, on construction of barracks or operational facilities.” He says private-public partnerships “now in place will be responsible for billions of dollars worth of construction that will build, renovate and maintain thousands of military homes around Oahu over the next 50 years.”

The U.S. and Japan have agreed to move 8,000 Marines off Okinawa, relocating them to Guam with Japan picking up much of the financial tab, but the plan has stalled because of political interests. Shifting the Marines to Guam is linked to construction of a new military airfield in northern Okinawa to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in densely populated Ginowan City, but Okinawa Prefecture and municipal leadership have been dragging their feet on granting necessary approvals.

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