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GAO: Cost gaps in Corps' plan for Pacific shift

Jun. 21, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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A government watchdog agency has cautioned the Defense Department to get a better grip on the costs associated with the Marine Corps’ shift in the Asia-Pacific region.

The projected price tag tied to the Marine Corps’ plan to move more than 9,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to other parts of the region is missing key expenses, the Government Accountability Office reported June 11. The congressional agency issued several recommendations for the Defense Department to better assess the costs and planning needed for realignment.

Missing, the report states, are key expenses tied to moving people and equipment from Okinawa to Guam, Australia and Hawaii. DoD also based several of its cost projections on assumptions rather than carefully examined data, the report states.

“DoD omitted any costs associated with mobility support, a critical component of the implementation, from its cost assumptions,” the GAO report states.

Not adequately analyzed are plans to eventually move 2,500 Marines — an entire Marine air-ground task force — to Darwin, Australia. Two company-sized units of about 200 Marines already have rotated through Darwin, and Marine Corps officials announced June 11 that the number will increase to 1,100 Marines, the size of a battalion landing team, in 2014. That boost is the second of four planned phases leading up to the rotation of entire MAGTFs through Australia.

The gaps mean that the Defense Department’s $12.1 billion cost projection to implement the Marine Corps’ realignment plan is “not reliable,” the report states.

A major component to the Corps’ shift to the region is based on the assumption that Marines would regularly travel to perform routine operations and training events with other militaries, the GAO notes. But the Defense Department has not completed any studies to determine cost implications of moving Marines around to multiple locations, according to the report.

Also highlighted is the lack of planning associated with maintaining existing housing on Guam for Marines and their families who relocate there. The report estimates that 4,800 Marines will be moved to the island, but the cost of maintaining housing once they arrive has not been adequately analyzed.

The suggested $12.1 billion price tag for the shift is based on too many assumptions and not enough reliable studies, the report states.

“Without a reliable estimate, DoD will not be able to provide Congress and other stakeholders with the information Congress needs to make informed decisions regarding the realignment.”

Headquarters Marine Corps did not immediately respond to questions about how the service intends to respond to the report.

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