Military leaders brief lawmakers on federal spending cuts - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Military leaders brief lawmakers on federal spending cuts

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

State lawmakers got an update from some of the military's top brass saying the sequestration cuts will hit Hawaii harder than any other state per capita.

About 20,000 civilian Department of Defense workers will be furloughed.  That is 3.2 percent of all jobs in the state affected making Hawaii the most impacted state in the country in terms of jobs. The cuts will affect 15 percent of Hawaii's Gross Domestic Product.

"Instead of the analogy of falling off a cliff, its more realistic to view sequestration as rolling down a long, steep and bumpy hill painfully hitting rocks along the way," said Rear Admiral Denny Wetherald, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Painful because half a billion dollars in military spending will be cut, in addition to thousands of workers being furloughed.  Those workers will lose up to 20 percent of their pay which also means a drop in State income tax and spending in the community.

"Likely impacts include reduced spending at restaurants, decisions to defer major purchases, and reduced spending on clothing, dining out and recreational activities. Each dollar not spent by a furloughed employee represents lost revenue for the state," said Col. David Tagg, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

The military brings in $14.7 billion to Hawaii's economy.  The economic impact is second only to tourism so cutting or moving military from Hawaii will affect the state as a whole.

The Marine Corps alone has identified $444 million worth of projects to be put on hold in the coming years, which means local construction workers will have fewer jobs.

"Although all these facilities and improvements are necessary for the long term efficiency, health and safety of the base, there is a good chance that some of these projects will be pushed further into the future," said Col. Tagg.

Contractors are also taking a hit.  BAE Systems, which is Hawaii's largest military contractor, has laid off 70 people, furloughed 55 others and warned hundreds more workers they could be next.

"If it does happen it could be pretty significant," said Alan Hayashi, BAE Systems. "We're hoping it won't."

The military leaders say hope is not a strategy which is why they are preparing for life after the cuts.

"It should be clear that we will not be able to afford the Navy that we have today," said Rear Admiral Wetherald. "All services or facilities that employ civilian personnel will be affected to some degree."

"All of this put together means the US Pacific is slowing down in almost everything we do," said Maj. Gen. Roger Mathews, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific.  "No doubt about it the remainder of this fiscal year is going to be very challenging."

There is also talk of altering military bases.  The number of surface ships based at Pearl Harbor is expected to drop from 11 to 8, possibly switching ships to less expensive San Diego.

"It's affecting the entire island chain from a defense contractor standpoint," said Hayashi.

It's not all bad news.  The Marine base in Okinawa will realign 9,000 members.  About 2,700 Marines may move to Hawaii.  The Navy is already surveying land to accommodate the increase.

The F22's fighter jets will also not be changed nor will active military enlistees because of the overall importance of Hawaii's location in the Pacific.

"Given the threat in the region and the economy that flows through this region we have to maintain a strong presence and we're going to do that," said Maj. Gen. Mathews.

"We have a statutory responsibility to be the most ready when the nation is the least ready," said Col. Tagg.

"We're going to have to work extremely hard over the next couple years to shore up Hawaii's base so to speak," said Rep. Mark Takai, (D) Aiea.

Even with all the cuts the active military members are exempt.  The armed forces vow to continue to maintain security and stability in the Pacific.

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