Competition Site Proposal
MCAS Futenma is located on Okinawa, a small island south of mainland Japan. The base sits in the center of Ginowan City and is surrounded by densely packed low-rise urban development which consists of housing and businesses. It covers 480 hectares and is said to occupy approximately one-quarter of the city’s total area. The existing runway stretches 2,800 meters by 46 meters, and the site includes barracks and administrative facilities. Forty percent of the base consists of runways, taxiways, and aircraft parking.
While the base is still active, a potential deal is being negotiated to relocate military personnel to a new base on Okinawa or to the U.S. territory of Guam. Similar negotiations have stalled over the past few years as locals and environmental groups protest the relocation within Okinawa while government officials support the move. Currently, the United States uses the land with permission from the government of Japan who leases the land from 2,562 different private landowners who receive a yearly rental fee totaling 5.793 billion yen.
Following the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, Futenma was built as a bomber base by the United States military. In 1957 the base was transferred to the U.S. Navy and a year later construction of the barracks and hangars was started. The island was under control by the U.S. military until 1972 when it was returned to Japan with the condition that U.S. military bases would remain on the island. By 1976 Futenma was renamed a Marine Corps Air Station, and since 1969 it has also served as a United Nations air facility. In 1996 the U.S. and Japan agreed to relocate the base, returning the land to the original land owners; however, plans have stalled for nearly a decade.
The Politics of Relocation
Okinawa is a small island with a unique Japanese culture, and many Okinawans support the removal of the U.S. military. Futenma is one of the smaller bases on the island; however, it is surrounded by densely populated land. Residents complain about the loud helicopters and dangers of having a airbase so close to the crowded urbanization (In August 2004 a helicopter crashed into nearby Okinawa International University). The inability to connect infrastructure across the base grounds and building height restrictions due to the air traffic are nuisances to local development plans. Despite multiple protests in the past few years, some locals—such as local business owners and the more than 2,500 land owners who lease land to the government of Japan—support maintaining Futenma for economic reasons. While moving the base seems to be supported by the majority of stakeholders, the real conflict becomes finding a place to relocate the U.S. military.
Okinawa houses half of the U.S. troops stationed in Japan. In 1996, a year after three soldiers were charged with assaulting a local girl, an agreement was made to reform military procedures on the island. The two governments agreed to close Futenma by 2003 and reduce the military presence on the island. Troops were to be relocated elsewhere in Japan, but Marines insisted that the new base be located on Okinawa. Plans were made for a new base to be built on a less populated portion of the island to the north; however, locals worried that the base would destroy the peaceful beaches which attract tourists to the island. The resulting conflict has been a series of political battles and disagreements between residents, the U.S military, and a vacillating Japanese government. A recent solution suggested sending troops to Guam; however, the high costs of relocation have hampered the plan. Some suggest that moving the base to Guam or a location in Alaska would move jobs and money back to the American economy while still keeping the aircraft in the Pacific region.
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More Info and Photos:
Organizations Supporting the Relocation of Futenma
Congress wants military to study moving Futenma operations to Kadena @ Stars and Stripes
Panetta sees progress on Futenma, but pitfalls remain @ Stars and Stripes
Okinawa and Guam: In the Shadow of U.S. and Japanese “Global Defense Posture” @ theglobalrealm.com
A small base but giant issue in U.S.-Japan relations @ security.blogs.cnn.com
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