comscore Stryker Brigade relocation has upside for state | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Our View

Stryker Brigade relocation has upside for state

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

Budget restrictions have forced Army cutbacks across the United States. It’s reassuring, though, that the reductions in Hawaii are limited, and that the largest cuts here are driven not simply by the harsh realities of federal budget sequestration, but by the true needs of national security. The departing Stryker Brigade never was well suited to Hawaii’s limited training environment and is better off elsewhere.

The Army has about 22,500 soldiers based in Hawaii. The state avoided the worst-case scenario that would have seen 19,800 soldiers and civilian workers leave Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter, causing a major economic disruption, and, more importantly, a security risk as American defense forces pivot toward Asia.

Instead, the Army announced that Hawaii would lose only a total of 1,443 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2017, 229 from Fort Shafter and 1,214 from Schofield Barracks, including the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team — which activists had tried to prevent from landing here in the first place and which a retiring general signaled in 2013 was less than ideally situated in Hawaii.

The $1.5 billion brigade has been active here less than a decade. The Army spent tens of millions of dollars to acquire land, build roads and construct training complexes on Oahu and Hawaii island, work opponents assert exacted a heavy toll on fragile cultural and natural resources, including endangered species.

The Army wants to move the Stryker Brigade of several hundred eight-wheeled armored vehicles to a National Guard unit in Washington state, where there is suitable room for the high-speed, long-distance training exercises our islands naturally confine.

Rather than bemoaning this planned departure, all who lobbied hard to mitigate the Army cutbacks in Hawaii should accept it. They can celebrate that their efforts have been largely successful, as the Army’s limited reductions show a continuing commitment to Hawaii-based forces, based on the true needs of national defense. Hawaii’s late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye was instrumental in bringing the Stryker Brigade here, a decision that reflected the pork-barrel era during which he governed.

Just as the Stryker team may look forward to better training opportunities in Washington, enhanced training that advances the security of the whole nation, Hawaii residents may anticipate opportunities unleashed once the brigade leaves.

For example, the departure opens up Stryker training areas for other military forces and precludes the need to ever resume live-fire training at Makua Military Reservation in Leeward Oahu, a permanent halt that has been long sought by many area residents. Also, having only about 1,500 soldiers leave the islands averts the disastrous economic consequences local businesses predicted if the Army exited en masse, but could slightly expand Oahu’s tight rental market — a market in which soldiers with healthy housing allowances have an advantage over local civilian families.

In the end, the planned reduction in Hawaii-based Army forces will be far less disruptive than originally feared. The cuts are grounded in the needs of national defense, create opportunities to improve the lives of permanent Hawaii residents and to restore the islands’ natural and cultural resources.

Comments have been disabled for this story...

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up