Hawaii stands to lose nearly 50,000 people, more than 25,000 jobs and $1.35 billion in total economic impact by 2020, if we do not step up to keep thousands of soldiers and their families here in the islands.

In June 2014, the United States Army released the Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment report, assessing the impacts of potential reductions in personnel and base operations. Among the 30 installations at risk for downsizing are Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.

U.S. Army helicopter in Iraq

A UH-60 BlackHawk from 2nd Battalion 25th Aviation Regiment 25th Combat Aviation Brigade creates a dust storm at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq, June 2007.

Flickr: U.S. Army

The report discusses “Alternative 1,” the potential population loss of 3,800 from Fort Shafter and 16,000 from Schofield Barracks, representing an 83 percent cut in permanent party population. Imagine, for a second the impact on O’ahu from the potential reductions to Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks Scenario:

  • Loss of almost 50,000 people or 5.1 percent of our island’s population.
  • Loss of more than 25,000 jobs, which translates to 4.3 percent of all O’ahu’s jobs.
  • Loss of 1.35 billion in total economic impact is equal to 1.2 percent of our island’s income.

The impact island-wide is certainly troubling, yet, it is nothing compared to the potential impact on the surrounding communities which are so closely tied with the military bases. Now, imagine the likely effect to the neighborhoods – Wahiawa, Schofield, Mililani, Kunia and Waialua – immediately surrounding Schofield Barracks:

  • The five surrounding neighborhoods would likely lose close to 40,000 people, 38 percent of the population in the aforementioned areas.
  • Nearly 20,000 jobs could be lost. That’s equivalent to losing the State’s largest non-government employer more than three-times over.
  • Close to 9,000 spouses and more than 15,000 children would be affected.

Big picture, these losses would likely mean:

  • Miliani, Waipio and Wahiawa would be set back for decades.
  • The impacts would be felt right along the H-2 all the way back to both coasts from Haleiwa to Pearl Harbor.
  • The State would lose significant tax revenues.
  • Hardest hit economic entities would be in the following sectors, especially in this five zip-code area: construction, retail, restaurants, real estate, and professional scientific and technical service professions.
  • Further and significant repercussions would be to real estate values, unemployment rates and military tourism visitors.
  • Further cuts might even result in loss of the 25th Infantry Division, a loss that would be a severe blow not just to Hawai’i, but to the entire Pacific region.

Although these are illustrative impacts, it is clear that the impact of military base change is less of a general deflation across our local economy as whole, but a crater in the economic geography of our community. Put simply, “Alternative 1” would not be a “potentially significant” socioeconomic impact. It’s an existential threat to several of our local communities and, while no final decisions have been made, reductions to personnel are a forthcoming reality for the army.

Military service personnel, veterans and their families are an important part of our history and community. I hope this will continue for years to come.

This commentary was first published on HuffPost Hawaii.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author