UPDATE: Hawai‘i Congress & Governor Comment on Army Reduction Plans
By Maui Now Staff
Today, the U.S. Army announced plans to reduce its end-strength by 40,000 soldiers over the next two years, shrinking Schofield Barracks by 1,214 soldiers (from 15,687 to 14,473) and Fort Shafter by 229 soldiers (from 2,233 to 2,004) by the end of fiscal year 2017.
The Army had considered eliminating two Brigade Combat Teams and the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters at Schofield Barracks–nearly 16,000 soldiers in total.
Through the efforts of the community and Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation to stress the importance of the state’s strategic role in the Asia-Pacific rebalance, the Army has tabled plans for larger downsizing in Hawai‘i pending future action to address sequestration.
“Through our collective efforts, we have been able to protect the vast majority of the soldiers here in Hawai‘i,” said US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “It is disappointing that the Army made these reductions, but given the magnitude of the cuts that were contemplated, we are relieved that the worst-case scenario did not occur. We are entering a challenging time, but also one that presents opportunities for Hawai‘i. There is bipartisan consensus that the Asia-Pacific rebalance is right for America, and we will continue to push for investments in Hawai‘i to implement the rebalance.”
“While unfortunate, the announcement from the Department of the Army was expected and, for our state, limited in scope,” said US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The importance of a strong military presence in Hawai‘i, to lead the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, cannot be stressed enough and is vital to protecting our nation’s interests.
“That is why the Budget Control Act, which mandated sequester levels, is dangerous,” continued Sen. Hirono. “The Army’s proposal is a clear and concrete example of the impact the sequester could have on Hawai‘i. But it’s only one example. We also have to keep in mind that the foundation of a strong military is a strong economy.
“Sequestration will not just undermine the military’s readiness and the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.” said Sen. Hirono. “It will make serious cuts in investments to education, transportation, community development, and other areas that are essential to a strong economy. I will continue to stand strong against the sequester, and will work with the Department of Defense, leaders throughout our state, and others to find a sustainable path forward that both invests in a military that can continue to perform on an ever-changing global stage, and a growing, middle class economy in Hawai‘i and across the country.”
“At a time when our nation faces growing security challenges around the world, cutting 40,000 troops from the US Army needlessly puts our country at risk,” said US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This reduction is occurring due to arbitrary budget ceilings in the Budget Control Act, without any consideration of what is in our strategic best interest. Hawai’i is losing more than 1,400 soldiers now, and could face deeper reductions if these across-the-board federal budget cuts continue. I will continue to work to end sequestration, as continued inaction will only serve to undercut our military’s ability to respond to emerging threats around the world.”
“The Army reiterated the importance of the Pacific today when announcing the impacts of their force structure realignment and the impacts on Hawai‘i,” said US Rep. Mark Takai (HI-01), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “The fact that Hawai‘i gains mission expansion in the shift of major medical personnel and an Air Defense Headquarters show that the Army is committed to our state long-term.
“The shift from a Stryker Brigade to a Combat Infantry Brigade will result in a loss of 1,214 military personnel from Schofield Barracks, with another 229 coming from Fort Shafter, but the net total with the additional mission sets coming to Hawai‘i has yet to be determined,” said Rep. Takai. ” I would like to thank everyone in the community that helped with efforts to engage Army leadership, and note that without long-term budget fixes and further investment in our state, we must remain engaged and vigilant as the Army considers further future force structure decisions.”
UPDATE: July 9, 11:45 a.m.
“The Army is an integral part of our community, and I am pleased that the announced reductions are not as severe as they might have been,” said Gov. David Ige. “I believe this is a recognition that the Army’s Pacific Pathways plan to strengthen capabilities and assets in the Pacific region is an essential part of the nation’s defense strategy. It’s also a recognition that the Hawai‘i community appreciates our military members who stand shoulder to shoulder with us. Together, we are a family.
“We continue to monitor the potential loss of some of our civilian workforce and an additional round of planned reductions in 2017,” said Gov. Ige. “My administration will make the retention of our current force levels a priority.”