HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 2005, the threat of closure loomed over the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
"We were stunned. We were shocked," said Ben Toyama of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.
The federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) put the shipyard on a list of military facilities it wanted to review to help the government cut costs. In jeopardy were the jobs of 4,500 shipyard workers.
"We could have closed down," Toyama said. "The ships wouldn't have gone away but the work would have gone away."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said it was the most critical point in the shipyard's history. He promised the workers he would do all he could, but they had to help
"He was firm that we had to improve the cost and schedule. We had to improve our performance and efficiencies," Toyama said.
He said Inouye enlisted input from shipyard personnel. Military, business and government leaders, including then Gov. Linda Lingle, joined the fight. The lobbying effort paid off. The BRAC commission took the shipyard off the list.
"I think he pulled a lot of strings, and he called in a lot of chips," Toyama said. "He wanted to make sure we delivered on our promise to him that we would improve."
Toyama said Inouye checked up on the shipyard often to make sure it stayed on course.
In 2009 he helped launch a $25 million modernization project that enabled the shipyard to improve safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Shipyard Capt. Brian Osgood said Inouye was more than a friend.
"The shipyard would not be what it is today, 'no ka oi,' without his strong support and backing throughout the years," he said.
"We really owe him a lot with regards to what he's done for this country, and what he's done for the shipyard," Toyama said.
In 2010, the Department of Defense recognized the shipyard as the best depot facility in the United States for emergency repairs. It now employs about 5,000 people.