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HI leaders worry military cuts will compromise Pacific security

By   /   February 26, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

KEEPING US SAFE: The U.S. Army’s presence in Hawaii ensures security throughout the Pacific region, lawmakers say

By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s political and military leaders are worried proposed cuts to the military will affect the state’s economy and national security.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week announced the Obama administration’s plans to cut the U.S. Army to its smallest size since before World War II.

TAKAI: The stability of the Asia-Pacific Region rests in peace through our effective military strength.

State Rep. K. Mark Takai said he is disappointed and concerned.

“Hawaii’s crucial role in the military’s pivot to the Pacific needs to be recognized by Secretary Hagel and the Pentagon,” Takai said. “The stability of the Asia-Pacific Region rests in peace through our effective military strength. This is not the time to reduce our military strength and presence in Hawaii and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”

The U.S. military has more than 108,000 troops and dependents in Hawaii, according to data from 2012. That includes two Army posts and the Tripler Army Medical Center, two Air Force bases, two Coast Guard and three Navy stations, and a Marine Corps base.

Every branch will be affected, said Hagel,who expects another round of base closures in 2017.

HANABUSA: The sheer magnitude of the reductions and other tough choices announced Monday could affect military personnel and readiness, lawmakers say.

A member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, Takai has personal concerns.

“Our Air and Army National Guard units are less expensive to maintain and are available to governors during emergencies.”

The most substantial cuts announced so far will be to the U.S. Army — from 570,000 soldiers to 440,000.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Hawaii Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, is “very concerned.”

While the budget will still place priority on the Asia-Pacific Region and Hawaii, the sheer magnitude of the … reductions and other tough choices announced Monday come at the cost of military personnel and readiness,” Hanabusa said.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, is a military police company commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard. She served two deployments in the Middle East.

“After 13 years of war in the Middle East, it is essential that we take a hard look at how we are spending taxpayer dollars and allocating our limited national security resources,” said Gabbard. “In that time, we have seen emerging and imminent threats arise in other regions, and the nature of modern warfare is changing once again.”

Gabbard said she will review all aspects of the Defense Department’s budget proposal when it’s released March 4.

“As we examine and review the details of Secretary Hagel’s budget proposal, we must ensure that we are maintaining a force that is flexible and adaptive, able to address the threats we face today, but also a force that fits strategically with where we would like to be as a nation in the future.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr is president of the National Guard Association of the United States. He represents 45,000 current and former guard officers.

“We are disappointed, but hardly surprised, that today’s Pentagon budget preview ignores the advice of Congress and the nation’s governors that the National Guard should be more of a solution to the fiscal challenges facing our nation’s military. And we are angered by continuing comments, such as those in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s prepared text, that National Guard units ‘complement’ active forces.”

Hagel also announced plans to remove the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet, which, Hargett, said is the “undisputed close-air-support aircraft of choice of U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Reach Malia Zimmerman at [email protected]

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Malia formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.