Guam or Bust
Despite setbacks, Marine Corps presses ahead with exodus from Okinawa
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
expense of building and upgrading
infrastructure to support the
But the worldwide economy took
a major downturn in 2008 and has
been struggling ever since. Earlier
this year, an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, causing extensive
damage to infrastructure and a
nuclear crisis with which the nation
continues to grapple. And in May,
the Government Accountability
Office (GAO) suggested the move
would cost more than $7 billion
above the original estimate.
Now, the 2014 target for the
Guam transition is out the window
and the overall cost and feasibility of the effort is in
question as well.
The Marine Corps referred questions about the current
status of the move to the Office of the Secretary of Defense
(OSD). However, in a statement provided to Seapower by
Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Brian Block, the service
reiterated that its plans have not changed.
“The Marine Corps is committed to current plans to
maintain a forward presence in the region that is geo-
graphically distributed, operationally resilient and
politically sustainable,” the statement reads. “As dis-
cussions continue, we will continue to maintain our
force in readiness in the Western Pacific and work with
our allies and partners to maintain peace and ensure
Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, OSD spokeswoman,
said the Guam realignment remains an important
strategic goal for the U.S. military.
“Guam is the westernmost U.S. territory in the Pacific,
and allows the U.S. to demonstrate our commitment to
remain a presence for stability in the region,” she said.
“As a strategic hub, Guam allows us to more readily support operations in South and Southeast Asia.”
The Marine Corps’ planned move from Okinawa, Japan, to the
tiny island of Guam will extend beyond the original 2014 target
■ Shifting 8,000 Marines and about 9,000 of their dependents
will require significant infrastructure improvements on Guam.
■ Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde says a longer construction period
will allow the United States “to mitigate any emerging impact on
the island’s infrastructure.”
■ The Government Accountability Office estimates the move will
cost about $17 billion.
The 2006 handshake between the governments of Japan and the United States over a plan to build up Marine Corps infrastructure on the
tiny Pacific island of Guam within the next few years
marked an important moment in the relationship
between the two countries and a new era in U.S. force
alignment in the region. But unforeseeable events since
then have thrown the project into some turmoil.
Today, the effort to move 8,000 Marines and their
families from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam has an uncertain schedule and an unclear price tag, but the
Department of Defense (DoD) continues to maintain
its commitment to the project.
The move was clear-cut five years ago: Amid growing unease in Japan over the presence of foreign
troops, and with the U.S. military wanting to reposition itself in the Pacific, Japan would allocate $6.1 billion — with the United States adding $4.2 billion — to
move troops stationed in Okinawa east to the U.S. territory of Guam, and relocate Marine Corps Air Station
Futenma from an urban center in Okinawa to a spot in
the northern part of the city. The money would cover
costs associated with the move, particularly the