Military Leaders Warn Rebalance to Asia-Pacific Is at Risk
By Allyson Versprille
Navy and Marine Corps leaders worry that spending restrictions will slow down the sea services’ pivot to Asia. A greater presence in Asia-Pacific is a key tenet of the current U.S. defense strategy and of the sea services’ blueprint, “Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”
If Congress approves funding for fiscal year 2016 at the levels set by the Budget Control Act, a new strategy would have to be written, said Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, director of the programming division for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Bruner spoke at a panel discussion on the budget during the Navy League’s 2015 Sea-Air-Space Exposition.
Under restricted funding, the Marine Corps would not have enough combat-ready forces in its rotational programs in the Pacific and would have serious equipment shortfalls, said Brig. Gen. John Jansen, assistant deputy commandant for programs and resources. Marine rotational forces, comprised primarily of infantry battalions, deploy to the Pacific for six months at a time. “Under the BCA, we have not talked about taking risks there, necessarily, relative to our forces [stationed in the Pacific],” he said. However, “I can tell you there have been conversations about taking risks.”
Jansen mentioned recent negotiations with Japan and Australia to move forces off Okinawa and establish a rotational presence in Australia. “The funding lines for those activities are related to a treaty with Japan under which they pick up some portion of the military construction and other operations for maintenance to set up the new base down in Guam and some training ranges down in Saipan and Tinian,” said Jansen.
The Guam base is going to be a particularly difficult fiscal challenge, he noted.
“While the rest of the [Defense Department] is talking about [defense base closure and realignment], the Marine Corps is adding a base in Okinawa and it’s expensive, both for military construction and then for sustained costs over time for operations and maintenance,” said Jansen.