Tempers flare at military meeting about troop levels in Hawaii
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tempers flared at a military meeting in Waikiki Tuesday night as Army leaders from the Pentagon invited the public to express how much of an impact a possible troop reduction in Hawaii could have.
After hearing from a number of politicians about how much they need the military to stay, one woman's patience ran out.
"I want to hear a regular human being! Put somebody up there who didn't run for office and who didn't get elected!" she shouted.
As police officers surrounded the woman, Hawaiian sovereignty activists spoke out saying that she was with them and that the officers had no jurisdiction in their Hawaiian Kingdom.
The Army is considering whether to reduce the numbers of soldiers stationed at two Oahu bases. Thirty other communities are facing the same circumstance. This comes after the 2011 Budget Control Act. The Army says these reductions are necessary to achieve the savings required. The Pentagon is studying what would happen if Schofield Barracks cut 16,000 employees and Fort Shafter cut 3,800 employees.
In the most severe scenario, the Army would take away nearly 20,000 soldiers and approximately 30,000 civilians who depend on the military. That's roughly five percent of Honolulu's total population.
Opponents of the Army downsizing in Hawaii say the impact is tremendous. Nearly 20,000 jobs, more than $1 billion, including about $9 million in sales tax would be affected.
"I am strongly opposed to the cuts to the United States Army Garrison-Hawaii. Hawaii is the last place the Army should consider cutting soldiers in light of America's commitment to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific," said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz via Skype.
"The impact would be deafening to this community. We love what you do, we recognize the importance and we believe that particularly in Hawaii we serve an incredible important function," Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
People who support military downsizing say cutting troops in the islands would mean more affordable housing and less traffic.
"We need to focus on attrition, job attrition, land acquisition, clean up, and housing, affordable housing development," said State Rep. Kaniela Ing.
No decision has made yet. The Department of Defense plans to make a decision at the end of summer.
Another listening session will be held Wednesday at Leilehua High School cafeteria at 1515 California Ave. in Wahiawa from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
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