After losing funding in February, a missile defense radar system planned for construction in Hawaii is set to make a comeback after the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee voted to pass on the annual National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
The $740.5 billion defense policy bill includes a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative with $1.4 billion in initial funding that would shore up U.S. military resources in the region against what it considers to be Chinese encroachment. Chinese and Indian troops are currently engaged in a tense border standoff and Chinese fighter jets entered Taiwanese airspace on Tuesday.
That includes a $162 million authorization for the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii that reverses a Trump administration call to eliminate funding for the project in its proposed defense budget.
The Chinese military unveils its DF-17 missiles at the National Day parade held in Beijing on Oct. 1. China’s first hypersonic missile, the DF-17 is designed to bypass American missile defense systems.
Chinese Ministry of Defense
“As the United States continues to confront a range of strategic threats in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, it is imperative that all Americans are protected by our ballistic missile defense system,” said Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono in a press release.
“Securing full funding authorization for HDR-H was my top priority in the NDAA this year because it will help keep Hawaii safe from external threats. I will continue to advocate for its inclusion in the final, approved package.”
It’s not yet clear where the new system would be based, but military officials had been studying three locations on Oahu’s North Shore and one in West Kauai. The press release from Hirono’s office stated that “this funding will support construction of HDR-H following the Missile Defense Agency’s completed siting process – a process that should include meaningful community engagement.”
Local activists had vocally opposed the project on grounds that the construction could threaten cultural sites and harm the environment.
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Kevin Knodell covers the military and veterans in Hawaii and the greater Pacific for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms.