The ongoing budgets cuts mandated by sequestration will require the military to reduce expenditures by nearly $1.0 trillion, imposing heavy burdens on the Pentagon. This has motivated state and county governments throughout the U.S. to enact unprecedented measures to protect against base closures and realignment actions. The economies and workforce in most defense communities are heavily reliant on military programs and spending, and cutbacks in the military’s presence would be devastating.
Working in concert with military commanders, business and community leaders, mainland defense communities are taking aggressive steps to enhance the military value of their respective communities. Examples include appropriating state funds to create vital buffer zones to protect against encroachment, crafting solutions to mitigate noise complaints on training exercises, working initiatives to reduce the high cost of base utilities such as electricity, upgrading infrastructure of military training ranges, modernizing outdated public school facilities and raising the quality of schooling provided to military children.
While word is that military bases in Hawaii will not be spared, sequestration’s gloomy outlook could actually serve as a blessing for Hawaii.
Besides the military placing high military value in our strategic forward location in the mid-Pacific, Hawaii’s defense communities have enviable records in supporting military bases dating as far back as the pre-World War II period. Today, this includes decades of support provided by the communities of Wahiawa, Mililani and the North Shore for Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and its adjacent installations; Pearl City, Aiea, Halawa, Aliamanu, Moanalua and Salt Lake for Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field, Camp Smith, Tripler Army Medical Center and Ft Shafter; and Kaneohe, Kailua and Waimanalo for Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Bellows Field. Support for the military extends outward to Kekaha and Waimea for the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, and Waikoloa, Waikii Ranch, Parker Ranch and Waimea for the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii Island. Oahu’s neighboring communities of Waipahu, Kapolei and Kalihi also benefit from military bases.
The above defense communities could rise up to the challenge by re-invigorating base-community relations and solidifying support of the military’s needs under sequestration. Government officials, neighborhood boards and business leaders are encouraged to meet with base commanders and discuss areas where the military could use more local public-private sector support.
Sequestration has created a new operating environment for the military, and today’s military communities represent a new generation of military families. Local defense communities can learn how best to succeed in protecting against the loss of military presence by seeking the advice of commanders and learning how best to serve them.