Good News: U.S. Army Presence in Hawaii Expected to Remain Stable, for Now
The upgrade of the Commanding General (CG) position for HQ, U.S. Army Pacific to the four-star level last year has resulted in good news for Hawaii. The CG has been designated as the combatant commander of all Army and Marine Corps units under Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
General Brooks also recently announced that the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team would stay right where it is, dispelling rumors that the Army may relocate the brigade Schofield Barracks. “We don’t see the Stryker Brigade leaving for Washington state. We don’t have any designs to do that at this point in time.” commented Brooks, which means that the active duty count for the Army in Hawaii is expected to remain at about 22,500 soldiers.
Overall, the Army’s presence increased nearly 18% from 90,000 to 106,000 as it rebalanced to the Pacific while making drastic cuts elsewhere. The major difference is in the addition of rotational forces into South Korea and boosting I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington state. However, the Army plans to reduce the size of the USARPAC headquarters staff at Ft Shafter by 13% through attrition.
AUSA’s 2014 LANPAC Huge Success:
The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) successfully completed its efforts to establish a professional leadership forum in the Pacific theater that brings together key government leaders, military commanders, and other national and local organizations focusing on land-power capabilities in the Asia Pacific. The symposium featured bilateral meetings and discussions on a range of topics dominated by addressing the need for initiatives to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) programs.
A total of 58 speakers, 119 exhibitors, and upwards of 1,000 attendees participated in the three day symposium, including military and non-military officials from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other Indo-Asian nations; NOAA; USAID; and officials from the Department of Army in the Pentagon.
General Vincent Brooks, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific commented that the security of the region includes discussion of the common foe: natural disasters, commenting that “…natural disasters threaten and claim lives every year, especially in this region, and can, if not effectively responded to, undermine both economy and security” said Brooks, adding that “the symposium was hosted in Hawaii because if its historic ties to the region, it has the largest concentration of U.S. land-forces in the Pacific, and it is the closest state to the U.S. regional partners.”
Hawaii Must Brace for Base Realignments and Closures:
Congressional officials are beginning to recognize that the Nation’s fiscal concerns, coupled with the rising turmoil in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, may require congressional approval to conduct another BRAC in FY16. This has motivated defense communities in the U.S. to continue implementing initiatives aimed at enhancing the military value of bases in its states.
Initiatives vary from improving housing and public schools, to developing highways and roadways providing access to bases, and to modernizing training areas. The idea is to invest state and county funds to “BRAC-proof” bases to meet the challenges posed by competing states.
Bases in Hawaii are faced with challenges posed by lower cost operating locations in Washington state, California, Colorado, and other western states. While news of the planned move of 2,700 Marines to Hawaii and the Army’s announcement to retain 22,500 forward deployed forces at Schofield Barracks bode well for Hawaii, the pressures brought on by sequestration could dictate additional force realignments.
The MAC plans a more aggressive oversight program in Washington, D.C. by strengthening ties with the Association of Defense Communities and visiting with Pentagon officials, Hawaii’s congressional delegation, and other congressional officials.