Military heads from the around the globe gather in Hawaii for defense conference
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Military service members from around the globe are attending the Association of the U.S. Army’s LANPAC Symposium and Expo at the Sheraton Waikiki this week.
About 2,000 U.S. and foreign military leaders and defense contractors are there, including the army chiefs of Australia, France, Canada, Philippines, Singapore, Mongolia and Brunei.
Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner is holding bilateral meetings with several countries. He says maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region comes down to humanizing relationships with allies.
“It was difficult really to establish stronger relationships, if you have it virtually, if you meet online. So now that we have it face to face, it’s more or less, you know, more human,” Brawner said.
Maintaining the human to human connection is vital to America’s strategy in the region.
U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General Charles Flynn said the COVID-19 pandemic kept American forces from visiting the region and conducting exercises and other activities the way they did before, especially with smaller Pacific islands that didn’t have the resources to battle outbreaks.
When asked if the U.S. has lost influence to China, Flynn acknowledged some impact but said Army Pacific is changing that.
”Seeking ways to try to refresh renew, reboot those kinds of exercises that we had before. I think that’s the approach that we need to continue to take,” Flynn said.
“Certainly there’s concern, but I believe that the way we’re beginning to address those and reconnect during a period where we had separation will will outpace in the other activities that are going on.”
Engagement comes in many forms: Through joint exercises with the Army Pacific’s 107,000 soldiers, training centers and partnerships with national guard and reserve force.
All that activity is sustained by a robust defense industry. The Hawaii Military Affairs Council estimates defense spending at about $7.7 billion a year in direct investment, and output close to $20 billion.
It helped keep the state’s economy afloat during the pandemic when tourism shut down.
“Eight to 10% of the population of Hawaii is in the military,” said Jason Chung, vice president of the Hawaii Military Affairs Council.
“When you look at all the jobs that are associated with it, and what is put into schools and what is put into different programs, community service, it’s pretty significant in terms of integration and the commitment to the community.”
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