WASHINGTON — Faced with new threats from Asia, Congress has overwhelmingly approved the biggest military buildup in decades in a bipartisan effort that would bring hundreds of millions of dollars to Hawaii.

House and Senate conferees from the armed services committees this month finalized a package of proposals for the next fiscal year containing provisions that would benefit Hawaii, including taking steps to protect the state from a North Korean missile attack. It would add more defensive missiles in Alaska and a “discriminating radar” in Hawaii that would be able to differentiate between actual incoming warheads and decoys.

Congress, by a 356-70 vote in the House and 89-9 in the Senate, agreed to give the military even more money than President Donald Trump had requested. Trump had asked for about $675 billion; they authorized $700 billion instead.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa questions senior military leaders during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, March 7, 2017. U.S. Air Force Gen. Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified alongside U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command; U.S. Navy Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; and U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. They spoke about the continuing relevance of U.S. nuclear forces for our national security and the steps the Joint Force is taking to modernize and replace them. He also stated that U.S. weapons, delivery systems, the infrastructure that supports them, and the personnel who operate, monitor, and maintain them are prepared today to respond to any contingency. (DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa questions senior military leaders during a hearing on nuclear deterrence on Capitol Hill in March.

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In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who serves on the House Armed Forces Committee, urged the federal government to act promptly.

More money is needed because of a “real and dangerous” readiness crisis caused by obsolete equipment and overstretched armed services personnel, according to members of the House and Senate armed services committees.

“Today we have too many planes that cannot fly, too many ships that cannot sail, too many soldiers who cannot deploy, while too many threats are gathering,” the House Armed Services Committee wrote in the introduction to the conference report.

They said the U.S. needs 90 new F-35 jets; Trump had asked for 70. They asked for 1,676 Stinger missiles; Trump had asked for 1,100. They asked for 93 Bradley Fighting Vehicles; Trump had asked for 60.

Hawaii-Related Provisions Abound

Many submarines are based in Hawaii, and more of them are on the table under this bill. Congress called for $5.9 billion to buy Virginia-class submarines, about $1 billion more than the president requested.

Fewer than a fifth of all members of Congress, 79 people, voted against the bill. They included progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and also deficit hawks like Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina.

Tucked away in the 2,427-page conference report for the 2018 National Authorization Defense Act are dozens of provisions that affect Hawaii, home to the Pacific Command, the base for patrolling about half of the planet’s surface.

“A lot of the language we were looking for in the NDAA is here,” said Hanabusa. “We’re very pleased.”

170421-N-ON468-064 PEARL HARBOR (April 21, 2017) Capt. Ken Epps, commanding officer of NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, speaks to Hawaii 1st District Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and guests during a visit at Joint Base Pearl Harbor‐Hickam. The Congresswoman and other guests visited the modernized Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, where subject matter experts showed how the Navy maintains the facility as a national strategic asset. Red Hill provides fuel to operate overseas while ensuring drinking water in the area remains safe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeff Troutman)

Hanabusa tours the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, which the new defense bill calls a national strategic asset.

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North Korea’s missile launch Tuesday made it all the more pressing to proceed with the hike in defense spending, Hanabusa said in a statement.

Whether Congress will find a way to pay for the expenditures remains uncertain. Members of both parties have endorsed big spending increases for some governmental departments that they can’t afford unless they agree to raise the debt ceiling.

In the defense bill, the spending has been authorized but not appropriated, a separate step before the money is released. Appropriations are tied up in the ongoing fight over the burgeoning federal deficit.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, defense spending is limited to $549 billion, and non-defense spending is limited to $516 billion. Congress would find it difficult to carry out the planned defense spending increase without hitting this limit and triggering cutbacks elsewhere. Advocates for human services would oppose those efforts. The issues are expected to come to a head in December, when the government will once again face the prospect of a shutdown.

Nevertheless, Hanabusa said the odds are good that Hawaii will get much of the defense funding that has been authorized for it.

“Hawaii will be in a good position,” she said. “I think Hawaii will get funded because of our critical role in the Pacific.”

She said that the authorization bill tends to serve as a template for the eventual appropriations decisions. Three of Hawaii’s four congressional delegates — Hanabusa, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Mazie Hirono, serve on the armed services committees.

From left, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Mazie Hirono at the Navy shipyard graduation in August.

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Hawaii has recently begun tracking the value of military expenditures in the state, saying they make up almost 10 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

Hanabusa said military spending has a “multiplier effect” on the economy because it stimulates construction and brings higher-paid jobs to Hawaii residents. This kind of work is typically performed by local companies.

The defense bill authorizes some $300 million for construction projects in Hawaii, including $90 million for Fort Shafter’s Command and Control facility, $73.2 million for sewer improvements at Pearl Harbor and $65.9 million for a communications center at Wahiawa.

‘Key Military Needs In Hawaii’

Three of Hawaii’s four congressional delegates voted in support of the bill, Hanabusa and Hirono and Sen. Brian Schatz.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a major in the Army National Guard who served on the conference committee that prepared the final bill, voted against it.

Through a spokeswoman, Emily Latimer, Gabbard declined a request for an interview about why she voted against the bill.

In a statement, Gabbard said she voted no because she believes the Department of Defense permits “billions of dollars” worth of weapons and equipment to fall into the hands of enemy forces in the Middle East.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard receives her major rank bars from her father, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, left, and husband, Abraham Williams, at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in 2015.

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Gabbard’s statement went on:

This bill strengthens the deeply concerning Train and Equip programs in Syria that have proven to be problematic since their inception. … Currently, the Department of Defense merely vets the unit commander, and then hands over hundreds of weapons, ammunition, and equipment for his entire unit, leaving the background and ties of most fighters using U.S. arms unknown. Given the history of this program, its many failures, and how many US weapons have been used by terrorist group against civilians, proper vetting and accountability measures must be in place to ensure that U.S. supplied weapons are not being directly or indirectly provided to jihadist fighters.

The rest of the delegation expressed strong support for the defense spending bill. In statements, Hirono said “this legislation strengthens our national security and benefits those who serve in Hawaii and across the country,” while Schatz said the measure addresses what he called “key military needs in Hawaii.”

In other provisions that affect Hawaii, the bill calls for strengthening oversight of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, where leaks have endangered Honolulu’s drinking water supply. Hanabusa and the other delegates supported legislation that called for recognizing the strategic importance of the facility and using state-of-the-art technology to make repairs to it.

In Section 1680, the bill requires the “Department of Defense to take all appropriate steps to ensure Hawaii’s missile defense coverage against the evolving ballistic missile threat, including from North Korea.” It calls for adding about $5.9 billion for missile defense.

Climate change is addressed in section 335, where the secretary of defense is directed to prepare a report on the threat to dozens of military installations.

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