The Army said Thursday it will downsize military personnel at Schofield Barracks by 1,214 soldiers and thin the ranks at Fort Shafter by 229 troops. Hawaii could have lost about 20,000 soldiers to the Defense Department's downsizing.
"We're encouraged by this news. It is a reduction but it could have been a lot worse," said U.S. Rep. K. Mark Takai.
Supporters of larger cuts to Hawaii's military said the announcement is still a victory because it calls for converting Schofield's Stryker Brigade into an Infantry Brigade Combat team, ridding Hawaii of Stryker vehicles.
"Finally, the Army's come to the realization that those are just big paper weights stuck here on Oahu with no mission," said Al Frenzel of the Oahu Council for Army Downsizing University of Hawaii Economics Dept. chairman Sumner Lacroix believes the cuts won't severely impact Hawaii's economy but will take a bite out of Wahiawa's businesses.
"You don't want to sugar coat these kinds of cuts. There will be affects on people who run restaurants, bars, other stores that cater to military personnel," he said The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii collected more than 40,000 signatures during a petition drive to urge the Army to spare the state.
"We certainly recognize the difficult decisions that the Army had to consider in determining where the cuts were going to be made across the state. With that said we're pleased that it wasn't the worst-case scenario," Chamber CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara said.
To offset the loss of 1,400 soldiers, Hawaii will gain more than 200 personnel to expand medical efforts at Tripler Army Medical Center and 100 to support an air defense headquarters.
"This is important because it shows that the Army is committed to our state longterm," Takai said But more soldiers could be leaving Hawaii in future rounds of cuts through sequestration that affects defense spending.
HAWAI‘I CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION STATEMENTS ON ARMY RESTRUCTURING
“Through our collective efforts we have been able to protect the vast majority of the soldiers here in Hawai‘i,” said U.S. Senator 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 U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The importance of a strong military presence in Hawaii, 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. The Army’s proposal is a clear and concrete example of the impact the sequester could have on Hawaii. 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. 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 Hawaii 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. 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,” said U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “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 Hawaii,” said U.S. Representative Mark Takai (HI-01), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “The fact that Hawaii 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 Hawaii has yet to be determined. 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.”
U.S. Army Pacific Statements
Today, the Department of the Army announced force structure decisions affecting the U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC). The significant changes/proposal to USARPAC forces structure are:
* Conversion of the 4th infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, into an airborne infantry battalion task force by the end of fiscal year 2017
* Conversion of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (2/25 SBCT) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, into a two-maneuver battalion infantry brigade combat team
* The Department is analyzing a proposal to convert the Army National Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 40th Infantry Division, to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team transferring the Stryker equipment from 2/25 SBCT to them; the 81st ABCT is headquartered in Washington State, is proximate to, and has habitual training relationship with USARPAC
These directed reductions will result in a decrease of 2,600 and 1,200 Soldiers at JBER and Schofield Barracks, respectively. There are approximately 106,000 personnel currently assigned to USARPAC.
“Though there will be a small decrease in numbers overall, the Army has retained significant capability within the theater and remains on a strong footing with the rebalance,” said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Commander of the U.S. Army Pacific. “It is clear that the Army continues to remain committed to this region as it made these tough decisions.”
With the conversion, the 4/25 BCT (Airborne)’s unique arctic, high-altitude, joint forcible-entry capability will be retained but some ability to do simultaneous operations will be lost. Currently the unit is conducting operations in Kosovo, Australia and at home station.
The conversion of the 2/25 SBCT is expected to improve training opportunities with partners and allies and increase readiness; streamline logistic support; and reduce costs associated with the transportation of Stryker equipment. Light infantry units are more rapidly deployable and will provide the Combatant Commander additional rapid-response ground-force options. These force-structure changes will not affect USARPAC’s ability to conduct operations such as Pacific Pathways or other missions as directed by U.S. Pacific Command.
If the Budget Control Act of 2011, commonly referred to as sequestration, is not addressed, the active Army end-strength will be further reduced and it will be incapable of meeting current deployment requirements and responding to overseas contingency requirements. Future impacts to USARPAC force structure and budget are unknown.
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