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Defense spending bill clause may impact Henoko airfield

Date Posted: 2009-07-02

The House of Representatives has packaged its version of the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill, and passed it 389-22, raising some questions about the impact one clause in the bill could have on the planned replacement airfield in Okinawa.

Neil Abercrombie, a Hawaii Democrat, inserted a clause into the omnibus spending bill that prohibits construction of the new airfield that’s to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, unless it meets minimum Naval Aviation Safety standards. The congressman, officials say, had concerns about the flight path for the new airfield to be built at Camp Schwab, with runways extending into Oura Bay.

The bill has yet to face the Senate’s version of a Defense spending bill, and pentagon officials stress the issue is far from a political reality. The White House Office of Management and Budget has already weighed in, issuing a statement on how the clause could restrict the Defense Secretary’s authority, noting that the agreement on a new airfield at Henoko was agreed upon during international negotiations between the U.S. and Japan.

The clause, if it were to make its way into the final bill, could stymie plans to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, as the airfield on Camp Schwab must, by terms of the agreement between America and Japan, be completed first and Futenma closed. Okinawa’s governor has called for changes to the exact location of the runway, wanting the two V-shape runways to be moved farther out into Oura Bay. Both the U.S. and Japanese governments have rejected Hirokazu Nakaima’s proposal.

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