EXPERT witnesses yesterday agreed with Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo that the slowdown in the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa is hurting the United States' credibility in the Asia-Pacific region. The exchange took place during a hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region and its implications for U.S. national security.
Witnesses before the committee were Michael Auslin, resident scholar for Asian studies and director of Japanese studies at the American Enterprise Institute; Patrick Cronin, senior advisor and senior director of the Asia program at the Center for a New American Security; retired Adm. Gary Roughead, Annenberg distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution; and James Shinn, lecturer at the Princeton University School of Engineering.
After the witnesses delivered prepared testimony about the shift in military focus into the Asia-Pacific, the committee members questioned them. “What impact has the delays in the realignment of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam had on our political capital in regional credibility?” Bordallo asked. “I’m concerned that we are losing credibility by the obstruction that we continue to face from the U.S. Senate and this feeds the overall perception that the U.S. is not serious about the rebalance, which couldn’t be further from the truth as you can see from this hearing.”
Roughead said, “It’s probably less about the forces that may be moving around and more about the inability to lock down on a coherent strategy and the actions that support a strategy. That’s the issue that I think people look at and scratch their heads.”
Shinn, who is a former national intelligence officer for East Asia, at the CIA and then for the Director of National Intelligence, and former assistant secretary for Asia in the Department of Defense, agreed. “I think you’re absolutely right that the failure to move forward on this has done a lot of damage to our credibility in the past, much less a big test point for whether the so-called Asia rebalancing is a real strategy or whether it’s just a speech,” he said.
Bordallo also asked whether the panelists thought the recent election victory by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party would have an impact on the administration’s efforts to develop the Futenma Replacement Facility in Okinawa or otherwise help advance U.S.-Japan defense initiatives.
“I think it’s early, but it will change the nature of the discussion within Japan with a lean more toward enhancing a military and changing that military,” Roughead said. “How quickly that will happen and in what form is still to be determined.” He said he would not care to predict any impact on the Futenma facility, which has long been problematic.
Cronin agreed. “The Abe administration wants to move forward on Futenma,” he said. “The situation in Okinawa has not changed appreciably, so they still have to figure out how to overcome the local opposition.” Cronin is scheduled to be a guest expert at the Guam U.S. Asia Security Alliance’s Guam Roundtable on Security in the Western Pacific Region, on Sept. 5 and 6, at the Hyatt Regency Guam.
Bordallo also asked how to prioritize funding for the force rebalance. She and other members of Congress had recently written to National Security Advisor Susan Rice “about the need to develop an implementation plan so that departments and agencies have a clear roadmap for how to prioritize resources to this strategic imperative.”
Cronin said the Department of Defense needed to make a detailed report on the topic. “There can be a classified one for government purposes and there can be an unclassified one for public purposes,” he said.
Roughead said the report needed to take different approaches to the issue. “It needs to take into account more than just the Department of Defense because of the many interests that are in play – economic, trade, diplomatic,” he said. “I think there are real opportunities, but it’s a question of if rebalance and the strategic objectives we have in Asia are the real thing, then how do we come together as a nation, and apply the appropriate resources to achieve the ends we seek for a prosperous nation.”