Proposed military cuts could have negative impact on Oahu
WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Albert's Dry Cleaners estimates half its business comes from the military, and most of that comes from Schofield Barracks.
"This is the only laundry and dry cleaners in Central Oahu. Any place else you turn it in it has to go to Honolulu or Sand Island," owner Peter Nelson said.
Besides the dry cleaning operation, Nelson's wife owns two alteration shops that cater to military personnel. Whenever Schofield troops deploy, sales slow dramatically.
"Then you play ghost, watch the tumble weeds roll down the street," Nelson said.
With America's combat role in Afghanistan ending, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel now wants to shrink the nation's defense budget. He wants to downsize the army from 522,000 soldiers to about 440,000 troops.
"Given these realities we must now adapt, innovate, and make difficult decisions to ensure that our military remains ready and capable," he said.
Hagel hasn't revealed exactly which installations will be affected, but the worry in Wahiawa is that Schofield will lose troops. Aloha Scuba co-owner Mark Kantelis said three-fourths of his sales are from soldiers.
"They rent equipment, learn to dive, buy equipment and get it serviced," he said.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said she will review the proposal to "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."
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono believes the plan is better than what the military could have faced under sequestration.
"The good news for our forces in Hawaii is that this budget recognizes the rebalance to Asia and the Pacific Region. For the Navy, this includes the buying and building of new ships, including two Virginia Class submarines, per year," she said.
But U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said "the sheer magnitude of the end-strength reductions and other tough choices announced today come at the cost of military personnel and readiness."
"I respect the tough position that Secretary Hagel is in," said Sen. Brian Schatz. "But the first place to look for savings can't be from our military members and their families."
Schatz also noted that reductions in military housing allowances would have a greater effect in Hawaii, where those costs are higher.
Kantelis said Wahiawa shop owners are starting to wonder what it might mean to their bottom lines.
"There's a lot of businesses like mom and pop shops out here that the military go to," he said.
The Pentagon presents its plan to Congress next week.
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