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Continued cuts would slow Marine move to Guam

Apr. 17, 2013 - 04:36PM   |  
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told the House Armed Services Committee that federal spending cuts would slow the service's transition to Guam. Pictured is Guam's Apra Harbor.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told the House Armed Services Committee that federal spending cuts would slow the service's transition to Guam. Pictured is Guam's Apra Harbor. (MCS 1st Class Jeffrey Jay Price / Navy)
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As Congress continues to meet with the military to discuss its budget and plans, Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo asked Marine Corps and Navy officials about the status of the Guam military buildup and the Navy’s use of foreign shipyards in the region.

During a House Armed Services Committee yesterday on the Navy budget, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said the Corps is committed to relocate to Guam, adding he is “bullish” on the idea.

Amos, who earlier in the hearing noted federal spending cuts likely would reduce the Marine Corps’ 27 infantry battalions to somewhere in the “teens,” said continued cuts “absolutely” would slow the Guam buildup.

“It’s going to slow down the transition to Guam,” Amos said. “It’s going to slow down military construction money.”

Federal funding for the proposed move of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to new facilities on Guam still is frozen by Congress, pending a master plan that must be submitted by the Department of Defense. The commander of the Navy’s Pacific Command last month told Congress the Guam relocation may be completed by 2020.

Amos noted the Marine Corps already is operating in Guam and the Marianas, even if the words “Marine Corps” aren’t on any of the buildings it’s sharing with other branches of the military.

“We’re operating out of Guam right now. We’ve got an infantry rifle company there today as we speak,” he said. “We’ve had F-18 squadrons from Iwakuni, Japan, that have come down — as many as three that have operated out of Guam. We’ve operated out of Tinian.”

Bordallo also asked the Navy about its use of foreign shipyards in Asia to repair its ships, as opposed to using the Guam Shipyard. She said a federal report to Congress shows an “alarming number of ships” are being sent to foreign shipyards and she questioned the wisdom of spending federal money overseas, calling it “short-sighted.”

According to that report on the repair of naval ships in foreign shipyards, the Navy spent more than $2.4 million during fiscal year 2011 for repairs at shipyards in Western Pacific countries.

Federal law allows Navy ships to receive emergency repairs — called voyage repairs — in foreign countries if the ship is based at a U.S. port. If ships are foreign deployed, they are allowed to receive any repairs in foreign countries.

However, the military report to Congress shows that the Navy is choosing to send some of its ships twice as far to receive repairs in Singapore, Thailand and Australia than if they were to send their ships to Guam.

Adm. Johnathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, yesterday told the committee Guam is “right in the middle” of the Navy’s Pacific plans and “key to my strategy.”

“You have my commitment that we’ll comply with law, with regulation, and with the intent — not just the specific regulation,” Greenert said. “As you and I have talked, I’m real bullish on depot repair capability in Guam.”

Bordallo after the hearing issued a written statement, saying, “If we don’t address the sequestration problem in upcoming years, there certainly could be a slowing of the realignment.”

She said she is pleased the Marines have been training on Guam and in the region. “The training in our region is critical to the readiness of our forces in the region and aids in building and strengthening partnerships with our allies,” she said.

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