And it is not clear yet who will foot the bill to accommodate the potent and self-contained Marines Air Ground Task Group, which will come to Australia on six-monthly rotations.
As the second rotation of 250 US marines arrived in Darwin yesterday, a US Senate committee noted that plans to move thousands of marines “to Australia, Guam and Hawaii over a period of decades” were estimated to cost $US13.7bn ($13.3bn). “The marines preliminary estimate for the Australian portion of the plan is $1.6bn,” the committee on armed services report said.
“However, an assessment of what facilities might be needed in Australia has not yet been completed and formal negotiations with Australia have yet to begin.”
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said at the weekend that while the intent in coming years was to host up to 2500 personnel in a Marine Air Ground Task Force rotating into the Top End in the northern dry, a full taskforce would not be here before 2016-17. “The Australian government had not yet made any decisions about the arrangements for larger US Marine Corps rotations,” Mr Smith said.
He said the marines would stay at Darwin’s Robertson Barracks and train with troops from Australia and other nations; they would also train on their own at defence sites in the territory.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute analysts Andrew Davies and Mark Thomson said recently it made strategic sense for Australia to help out its US ally with the cost of its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region at a time of defence budget cuts in both countries.
“It’s clear to us that there’s disappointment in Washington about the allied response to date — and Australia has been mentioned in this respect more than once,” they wrote.
“America sees itself as the hardest working member of a team and it’s looking for a higher rate of effort from the rest.
“There are some things we can do at relatively little cost that will have the dual benefit of making the US rebalance a little easier for them while providing us an excellent return on investment, in terms of both security and alliance good will,” Dr Davies and Dr Thomson said.
The marines force would have a big footprint in the territory and they would need facilities for personnel and storage and maintenance of their equipment.
“An ongoing US presence in the Asia-Pacific is unambiguously in our interest; we get a security benefit from the alliance far in excess of our modest defence spending,” the ASPI team said.Source: The Australian – Marines lodging bill to hit $1.6bn
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