Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation don’t want the Army pulling any soldiers out of Hawaii in an effort to balance the budget.

“Though no final decision has been made, a worst-case scenario was laid out that would be catastrophic for Hawaii,” U.S. Rep. Mark Takai said in a statement Tuesday.

“This option would result in a reduction of approximately 20,000 soldiers and civilians from Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks, along with another 30,000 of their family members,” he said. “The communities around Schofield Barracks would lose approximately 30 percent of their population, causing an annual economic loss to the state of about $1.35 billion.”

A loss of that magnitude, said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a military veteran, “would also mean crippling impacts to the unique and indispensable assets available to Pacific Command for regional security and stability. The loss of Army forces stationed in Hawaii would fundamentally undermine current efforts to build a sustainable U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific, and limit our ability to build relationships with partner countries and promote stability in the region.”

Senator Mark Takai with wife Sami Takai at Governor Ige's inauguration ceremony held at the Hawaii Capitol rotunda. 1 dec 2014. photograph Cory Lum

Congressman Mark Takai walks with wife Sami at Gov. David Ige’s inauguration ceremony Dec. 1. Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation are fighting to keep Army troops stationed here.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Takai, a member of the National Guard, said the Army has to reduce its overall force by roughly 80,000 troops as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. He said 30 locations are being studied for potential reductions.

Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz said in a separate statement that the Army can’t allow its budget to drive its strategy of “rebalancing” to the Pacific. (Both Takai and Schatz used “rebalance” instead of “pivot,” which had been the common, more alliterative word choice to describe the strategy.)

“Hawaii is the last place the Army should consider cutting soldiers in light of America’s commitment to rebalance to the Asia Pacific,” Schatz said. “There is bipartisan consensus that this rebalance is right for our country. If resourced correctly the Army can play a strategic role, with Hawaii as the foundation for its engagement in the region.”

Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she’s made clear to military leaders and her colleagues that Hawaii’s role in rebalancing to the Asia Pacific is important.

“I will continue to press our military leaders on this point,” she said. “And I will certainly discuss these concerns when I meet with Ash Carter this week, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.”

Takai, Gabbard, Hirono and Schatz all submitted testimony for a public input hearing that the Army is holding from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday (today, that is) at Hale Koa Hotel. A second session is set for the same time Wednesday at Leilehua High School.

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