U.S. Congress panels to OK budget for Guam-Okinawa Marines move

The armed services committees in both chambers of the U.S. Congress have decided to endorse an $86 million outlay for the transfer of Marines to Guam from Japan's Okinawa, a congressional source said Tuesday.

The chiefs of the committees decided to allow the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 to include a budget for the Marines' transfer, paving the way for Congress to finally give the green light to the key piece of legislation.

The move came after the Senate dropped its earlier call for eliminating the budget from the bill, in a concession to the House of Representatives to ensure its early passage.

"This is the only way we can pass a bill this year," Carl Levin, head of the Senate committee, told reporters.

Senators who are influential in the plan to transfer Marines from Okinawa to Guam had been critical of the government's budget for the program, saying there were too many questions about feasibility.

Under the current relocation plan, about 9,000 of the 19,000 Marines stationed in Okinawa are to be transferred out of Japan and of those, about 4,000 would be moved to Guam and the remainder to Hawaii and Australia.

Japan and the United States agreed to move the U.S. Marines from Okinawa to reduce the burden on the southern Japan prefecture, which already hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.