Military leaders address gains and potential losses
In their annual update to Hawaii’s government and commerce leaders, military commanders reiterated America’s commitment to a strategic rebalance in the Pacific. But they also caution other Indo-Pacific nations are expanding their military power — specifically China.
“We’ve got to remain protective in this region in order to address the challenges we see today and tomorrow,” said Adm. Harry Harriss, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The Commanding General of Army forces in the Pacific hopes sequestration will be relieved. He believes downsizing troops in Hawaii could affect the Army’s ability to meet its missions.
“So it would be, frankly, a reversal of the momentum that we’ve already established as an Army and the rest of the joint force as well here in the Pacific and in Hawaii,” Gen. Vincent Brooks said.
In the Army’s analysis, sequestration could remove thousands of soldiers and their family’s from Schofield Barracks and Ft. Shafter.
“They’re looking at 20,000 troop reduction, an additional 30,000 civilian reduction. So that’s 50,000. That’s five percent of Honolulu’s population,” Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii executive director Sherry Menor-McNamara said.
The Chamber’s “Keep Hawaii’s Heroes” petition drive needs 40,000 to present to Army officials when they visit on January 27 and 28.
“The object here is to have the best informed decision when it all has to be considered on a national level,” Brooks said.
There is also competition from nearly 30 other communities who worry they will lose troops.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the folks in Ft. Stewart, GA, Ft. Drum, NY, or Ft. Polk, LA, I could probably name any of the other 30 communities, will make their case in the very strongest terms,” retired Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo said.
As Hawaii stands to lose in one sector of the military, it stands to gain in another. In November, the USS Mississippi became the fourth Virginia-class submarine to be stationed at Pearl Harbor. Eventually, all three of the Navy’s new stealth destroyers including the USS Zumwalt will be based in the Pacific.
“By 2020, 60 percent of your Navy will be based somewhere in the Pacific,” Harriss said.