Budget Supports Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific

By Del. Madeleine Bordallo

Although North Korea's bellicose rhetoric does not match the readiness or capabilities of their military, recent, more elevated threats against U.S. military bases in the Pacific drew international attention to Guam. These continued provocations highlighted the growing need to strengthen our nation's military and diplomatic presence in this increasingly vital region. Guam, my congressional district and home for more than 60 years, has always been a strategic hub for our military, and it will play a greater role in our nation's defense over the coming years.

Since 2003, the Department of Defense has been planning a military build-up on Guam, the prime action of which was the relocation of nearly 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa. The plan has changed over time, but the Administration still plans a realignment of nearly 5,000 Marines to Guam over the coming years. This move is just one part of the Obama Administration's overall rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Movement on the Pacific realignments in Guam, Hawaii, Australia and the U.S. mainland, will allow the U.S. to ensure freedom of navigation, peaceful development and stability in the region. With greater regional stability, economic opportunities, including tourism and renewable energy, will increase throughout the Pacific.

More recently, the President demonstrated this commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance by including significant funding requests for military construction and civilian infrastructure on Guam in his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. His proposal would provide $495 million in investments in military construction on Guam at Andersen Air Force Base and Navy Base Guam to support current and future mission growth and build resiliency. It also includes sufficient funding to operate a fourth fast attack submarine out of Guam. The budget also continues significant funding for the development of a new generation penetrating bomber that is critical to countering anti-access area of denial capabilities. Additionally, it provides for $14 million, an increase in funding, for joint exercises at Pacific Command. More bilateral and multilateral training with partners in the Asia-Pacific region is absolutely critical to building understanding among allies and show our commitment to the region. For the first time in several years, the FY14 budget shows a clearer commitment to the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

I am very supportive of this budget overall and I will work with my colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee to maintain funding for these projects and initiatives in the final defense bill. The Senate, however, in the past several years has not acted in a manner that demonstrates the United States commitment to this rebalance. The Senate has let perfect be the enemy of good and it has cost diplomatic and political capital for the United States. A CSIS report on the rebalance, insisted on by the Senate, was a significant step forward, and highlighted the strategic and national security reasons for these moves. Much of the debate has centered on military construction funds, but this report reemphasizes the importance of addressing our regional allies' requirements and other national security interests. The report clearly indicates that it is critical for Congress to end the impasse over implementing the U.S.-Japan agreement because it has caused us to lose some strategic influence in the region

While it is true that spending more on defense doesn't necessarily make us safer, tighter purse strings mean we need to target spending in more strategic ways. Sequestration, however, does not allow for strategic cuts and could slow realignment-related projects. It is possible to have a leaner, more flexible military, but we must prioritize funds that ensure our forces are postured effectively and well-resourced to carry out their missions.

The reduction in the overall defense budget reflects our struggling economy and the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our national defense strategy has shifted with a renewed engagement in the Asia-Pacific theater. The realignment of Marines in Guam and throughout the Pacific, as well as building resiliency at our Air Force bases in the Pacific, are just two examples of how our military is shifting to respond to emerging threats this region. As such, it is important to protect funding for current operations and it is necessary to make critical investments to ensure our country's long-term security. Asia-Pacific requirements, in particular, must be prioritized, and I am encouraged that the Administration is working to facilitate these realignments.

 

 

Madeleine Z. Bordallo is the Guam delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.

 

Del. Madeleine Bordallo
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