US military warned of S.Korea, Japan cost overruns

AFP/File Jung Yeon-Je


WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US government report warned Wednesday that the Pentagon was likely underestimating billions of dollars in costs for a controversial restructuring of bases in South Korea and Japan.

The Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, pointed in particular to the costs from a plan to allow more US troops in South Korea to bring their families.

The Pentagon “is transforming the facilities and infrastructure that support its posture in Asia without the benefit of comprehensive cost information or an analysis of alternatives,” the report said.

The study said that the Pentagon anticipated $17.6 billion through 2020 for its plan in South Korea, which includes leaving the Yongsan base in the heart of Seoul where troops have often had friction with residents.

But the report called the estimate incomplete, saying that the plans to allow families and to extend the length of troops’ tours would cost $5 billion by 2020 and $22 billion by 2050.

Private developers are building housing for dependents near the enlarged US base in Pyeongtaek, with hopes of recouping their investment through rent. The report said the system could lower US construction costs — but also may raise overall costs through military housing allowances.

While the shift in South Korea has been proceeding, a base realignment in Japan has been marked by political difficulty after a previous government tried unsuccessfully to reduce further the US troop presence on Okinawa island.

The Government Accountability Office identified $29.1 billion needed for the Japan base plan but said that additional costs had not been taken into account and noted that Tokyo has been reducing its financial support to US bases.

The report recommended that the Pentagon order a study on costs and limit spending on the South Korea plan until the review is complete.

The United States stations some 47,000 troops in Japan and 28,500 troops in South Korea, legacies of World War II and the Korean War. President Barack Obama has been eager to move ahead with the base plans which were first negotiated under his predecessor George W. Bush.

But three prominent senators — Carl Levin, John McCain and Jim Webb — recently called for a freeze in the base plan, pointing to cost overruns in South Korea and a lack of political support in Japan.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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