Governor: Hawaii to get 2,700 Marines from Japan
HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. military is expected to announce it will transfer up to 2,700 Marines from the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa to Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Tuesday.
The governor didn’t say when the Pentagon would announce the new plan. But he said he has talked with the U.S. Pacific Command in anticipation of more Marines coming to Hawaii. He’s also talked to Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima.
“As the Pentagon finalizes its plans, I believe the number of Marines moving to our state will increase and we are well-prepared to receive them,” Abercrombie said.
There are currently 7,500 Marines stationed in Hawaii.
The U.S. and Japan agreed in 2006 to move 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam. But the countries have struggled to implement that plan amid opposition in Okinawa to a part of the deal that would keep a strategically important base — Marine Corps Air Station Futenma — within the prefecture.
U.S. lawmakers have meanwhile expressed concern about the high cost of boosting the military presence on Guam, a U.S. territory about 1,500 miles south of Tokyo and 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.
In February, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the U.S. would instead move 4,000 Marines to Guam and send the rest to Australia and Hawaii.
Abercrombie indicated his experience in Congress working on legislation for military housing would help ease the move of Marines to Hawaii.
“In my role as governor, I am working to ensure that there is ongoing military and state cooperation to allow for a seamless and smooth transition for our servicemen and women and their families,” he said.
In Washington, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday cautioned Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that no agreement should be considered final without congressional approval.
“It is essential that we get these important decisions right, and that they be guided by sound strategic concepts and fiscally sustainable plans,” Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Republican John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia wrote in a letter to Panetta.
The senators have criticized the original reorganization plans as impractical and costly, and included a provision in the defense budget for 2012 to make progress contingent on the Defense Department’s first allowing an independent review.