Senator Schatz Opposes Cuts to Army Garrison-Hawaii
Schatz Submits Testimony to Army at Community Listening Session in Honolulu
Honolulu, HI – Today U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) submitted video testimony opposing proposed reductions to Army personnel in Hawai‘i. In video remarks to be delivered at the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawai‘i’s community listening session in Honolulu, Senator Schatz underscored Hawai‘i’s important role in the nation’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and highlighted the deep ties the Army has cultivated with the state.
“I am strongly opposed to the cuts to United States Army Garrison-Hawai‘i,” said Senator Schatz. “The Army cannot allow the budget to drive its strategy in this critically important region. The people of Hawai‘i and the soldiers here have always worked together to support our national defense and will continue to do so.”
Last year, in anticipation of extreme budget cuts, the Army outlined a proposal to eliminate nearly 20,000 soldiers and civilian employees at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter as part of its 2020 force structure realignment. The second community listening session is scheduled to take place tomorrow, January 28 at Leilehua High School.
Full text of remarks follow:
Aloha and good evening.
My duties in the Senate prevented me from being with you to deliver these remarks in person tonight, but I welcome the opportunity to provide this testimony as the Army considers decisions affecting the future of the force here in Hawai‘i.
I am strongly opposed to the cuts to United States Army Garrison-Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i is the last place the Army should consider cutting soldiers in light of America’s commitment to rebalance to the Asia Pacific. There is bipartisan consensus that this rebalance is right for our country. If resourced correctly the Army can play a strategic role, with Hawai‘i as the foundation for its engagement in the region.
After U.S. Army Korea, Hawai‘i is home to the Army’s most forward soldiers, capable of responding to crises in a fraction of the time compared to those in Washington and California. Our tropical environment is the perfect training location to prepare the Army for the Asia Pacific, making soldiers here more ready for this region than forces based on the mainland. And our mountain and desert training areas ensure that these soldiers are prepared to deploy anywhere in the world.
The Army faces hard choices as it shrinks to 450,000 soldiers after more than a decade of open-ended war. And Congress is making these choices harder as it continues to threaten sequestration that could force the Army to shrink even further. Congress must remove the threat of these arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts so that Army leaders can improve their planning and avoid these strategically unwise decisions.
Today’s world increasingly demands that the military be prepared to operate as a joint force and there are few places that are better suited for training to operate together than Hawai‘i. When soldiers on Oahu deploy for training exercises in the region, they often do so with support from the Air Force. Marines train alongside the Army at Schofield Barracks and at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island. All of this helps develop the discipline that makes it easier to work together in the real world.
To support the Army in Hawai‘i, community leaders have worked closely with the garrison to accommodate its training requirements. These relationships took decades to develop and have not been without tension on contentious issues, particularly over the use of historically, culturally, and environmentally sensitive land for training. But these relationships have matured into a close partnership that has helped to ensure that training is in balance with local needs, like at the Pohakuloa Training Area, where there is a now a staff dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered plants and Native Hawaiian cultural resources.
The Army cannot allow the budget to drive its strategy in this critically important region. The people of Hawai‘i and the soldiers here have always worked together to support our national defense and will continue to do so. Mahalo.