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Can the U.S. afford a big Pacific realignment?

There are no good numbers for how much it will cost to realign American forces in the Western Pacific, nor clear ideas about what the alternatives are, the Government Accountability Office says in a new study. The report, cited by Stars & Stripes reporter Travis Tritten, puts its own huge potential price tag on the various moves, if they take place, and reawakens a longstanding question just as DoD begins to undertake its Mother of all Reviews: What is America's strategy in the Pacific?

Wrote Tritten:

The U.S. military is moving ahead with one of the largest shift of Pacific forces since World War II without a good idea of how much it will cost or if the country can afford the bill, federal auditors said this week.

A report by the Government Accountability Office shows the realignment of forces in South Korea, Japan and Guam could cost the United States and its allies more than $46 billion this decade. Military estimates of the various components have been inaccurate or nonexistent, the report said.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department has not fully considered alternatives that could prove to be more effective and affordable, the GAO said. The report adds to growing doubt in recent weeks over the long-planned overhaul in the region, which could eventually allow servicemembers in South Korea to bring families along for three-year tours, reduce the controversial presence of Marines on Okinawa, and turn Guam into a major military hub in the Pacific.

This story doesn't even include the word "China," but that, clearly, is the long pole in the tent. If China and the Pacific will be tomorrow's most important areas of American national focus -- and they're pretty important now -- is it worth the costs of getting the strategic posture right?

If the Pacific were a game board in "Risk" or "Battleship," how would you set up your pieces?

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