Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Isles' profile elevated in pivotal Asia-Pacific

Hawaii's role in the region was nurtured with federal funding and facility upgrades

By William Cole


There was no greater friend and ally to Hawaii's considerable military might than U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, say those who knew and worked with him.

Inouye "saw the importance of the Pacific long before anybody else did. He saw that's where the eventual (military) buildup would have to come," said Bill Paty, a D-Day veteran, Oahu resident and emeritus civilian aide to the secretary of the Army.

Inouye helped posture Hawaii militarily for the Pacific "pivot" or "re­balance" before both became buzzwords at the Pentagon and a mainstay of U.S. defense strategy.

Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, head of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, said Inouye was a son of Hawaii, a Japa­nese-American patriot who served in World War II, a Medal of Honor recipient and a statesman who was the senior member of the U.S. Senate.

"That camaraderie of being a soldier never left him."
—Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, head of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, recounting conversations he would have with Inouye during his visits to Washington

"But the thing that defines him in all that is he is a great human being," Wiercinski said.

In 1968, Inouye called the Vietnam War "immoral." He voted in 2001 for the use of force in Afghanistan, but against it in Iraq in 2002.

"I think he was a man of conscience," said retired Army Gen. David Bramlett. Inouye didn't confuse the instruments of national power — the military — with what it was called upon to do, he said.

"We did what our nation asked us to do. He didn't confuse the role of the military with the fairness or unfairness, or justice or injustice of war," said Bramlett, who served in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division.

When Inouye spoke out against Vietnam and Iraq, "I think it was sensitivity to the price of it," Bramlett said. "But once a battle was joined, I never sensed anything less than support for those that were called upon to do their duty."

Inouye is credited with shepherding through Congress the Army's Stryker vehicle brigade at Schofield Barracks and F-22 Raptor fighters and C-17 cargo carriers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Each project brought additional military capability to the U.S. presence in the Pacific, and added millions to Hawaii's economy.

It was Inouye who announced in 2007 that the Hawaii, Texas and North Carolina were to be the first batch of new Virginia-class submarines headed for a new home port in Hawaii and duty in the Pacific.

Officials SAY he was responsible for hundreds of millions in upgrades over the past 10 years at the Pearl Harbor shipyard, the state's largest industrial employer, and directed more than $950 million in improvements to the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai to support state-of-the-art missile defense testing and systems.

<t$>Inouye said last April that the U.S. would move as many as 2,700 Marines from Japan to Hawaii as the Pentagon scaled back a massive Marine Corps buildup project on Guam. With those projects have come jobs and key economic support.

A RAND Corp. study determined that Defense Department expenditures in Hawaii during the fiscal years 2007 to 2009 averaged $6.5 billion a year in 2009 dollars — $4.1 billion for personnel and $2.4 billion for procurement.

Those expenditures were associated with $12.2 billion worth of Hawaii's output — 18 percent of Hawaii's 2009 gross domestic product — and 101,000 jobs.

When Inouye spoke about the military — usually tersely, which was his style — people sat up and listened to every word because he effected so much change.

David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Group and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's Military Affairs Council, saw Inouye's clout on annual trips to Washington, D.C., by the business group.

"When we go to the Pentagon and when we go to the rest of the Hill, because Sen. Inouye has been associated with Hawaii, it elevates the attention that we get as a state and for the military activity that we've got here," Carey said. "You are definitely listened to. You are not ignored."

Inouye's military influence reached out in so many ways.

"He will be a great loss to the security of the Asia-Pacific region, where he was instrumental, I think, crafting up U.S. policy and strategy for the region," said Charlie Ota, vice president for military affairs for the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

Ota said another key area of Ino­uye's influence, using the military's presence in Hawaii, was in research and development.

Inouye WAS BEHIND the development of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, Ota said.

The Hawaii Technology Development Venture under it, funded by the Office of Naval Research, sought to expand the ability of Hawaii-based small businesses to develop advanced technologies related to Defense Department programs.

Year after year, Inouye's office sent out news releases detailing the myriad projects that he supported for Hawaii.

In May the Senate Appropriations Committee headed by Inouye approved $366 million for military construction projects here.

"Today, as America's defense posture shifts to account for the challenges in the Asia-Pacific, the military's mission in this region is as important as it was when I served in the Army many years ago," Inouye said in a statement at the time.

"These measures provide the funding necessary to build the infrastructure and housing we need in Hawaii to support our men and women in uniform," he added.

The list included $29 million for an Army automated infantry platoon battle course at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island, $85 million for combat aviation brigade barracks at Wheeler Army Airfield, $82.6 million for an MV-22 Osprey hangar and infrastructure at Kaneohe Bay and $24 million for a SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 waterfront operations facility.

Past campaign material said "having witnessed the horrors of war firsthand, Dan Inouye has committed himself to doing everything within his power to prevent war" by fortifying national security and providing "the best possible assistance" to American servicemen and women.

Inouye was wounded at least three times and lost his right arm charging German machine-gun nests in Italy in 1945.

Paty, who knew Inouye from the start of his political career after the war, said his soldiering past helped define Inouye the politician and his support of the military for the rest of his life.

"There is nothing like the support when you go to combat, and in his case he lost an arm," Paty said. "The band of brothers there inherently prevails."

Kerry Gershaneck, a senior associate at the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies and former congressional and public affairs officer for the Pearl Harbor shipyard, said Inouye's death is a real blow to the state.

"We've lost, clearly, the leading statesman and the most effective advocate for the state of Hawaii in Washington, D.C.," Gershaneck said.

Among Inouye's accomplishments, Gershaneck said the senator laid the foundation for U.S. Pacific Command to remain in Hawaii with the opening in 2004 of a more than $150 million new headquarters at Camp Smith called the Nimitz-MacArthur Pacific Command Center.

Projections are that this year and next year, the shipyard is "going to be sitting very well" with military construction projects, Gershaneck said.

"He (Inouye) knew best the importance of setting up the shipyard so in the long run it had the modern facilities, it had the trained workforce, that we needed to compete with the other shipyards in the 21st century," he said.

Politics, not just military necessity, plays a part in which military programs get funded and where. Hawaii will now be at a disadvantage without Inouye's seniority and leadership, Gershaneck said.

"Within the Pentagon it isn't just political clout. People can read a map and they know … the importance of Hawaii," he said.

"There will always be advocates for the importance of Hawaii within the Department of Defense," Gershaneck said. "But it helps tremendously when you have senior members of Congress from Hawaii on the political side."

The Defense Department already has been cutting back, and Gershaneck said common sense says that "we have to be quite concerned" about a loss of funding coming into the state.

Wiercinski, the three-star general who heads up U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, said Hawaii and the nation lost a great patriot in Inouye. Wiercinski said he also feels the loss of a fellow soldier and friend.

"Every time I was in (Washington), he would ask me to just come and sit with him and talk with him," Wiercinski said. "Of course, a lot of the conversation was always about ‘What do we need to do for the military? What do we need to do for the Army?' But then, for the last 15 minutes or so, we'd drift to, ‘I remember my time as a soldier,' and we'd talk about being a soldier. That camaraderie of being a soldier never left him, and I think he enjoyed talking about that more than the business end of it."

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