State lawmakers clearly had Saturday’s nerve-wracking missile alert on their minds as they opened the 2018 session of the Legislature this morning, with House and Senate leaders vowing to investigate what led to the false alarm, and to make sure the problem gets fixed.
House Speaker Scott Saiki said in his opening remarks that some functions of government “must be carried out without mistakes because, when mistakes happen, the public loses confidence in all of us.”
He told reporters after the opening floor session “when you look at what happened on Saturday, it’s pretty clear that the Legislature needs to take a hard look at why that situation was created, and how it was created, so we’ll begin on Friday” with the first hearing on the subject.
The House Public Safety Committee and the Senate Government Operations and Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs committees have scheduled a hearing at the state Capitol for 10 a.m. Friday to review the circumstances surrounding the incident and the delay in calling off the false alarm.
Lawmakers also cited housing, homelessness and education as priorities during this year’s 60-day session of the Legislature.
Saiki said he suspects the false alarm of a ballistic missile attack that took 38 minutes to correct is a failure “probably at every level of government, including the federal and military levels, so once we have information, we’ll have to conduct oversight and ensure the administration makes the changes that need to be made.”
Senate President Ron Kouchi told his colleagues and onlookers that the Senate will continue working with the Ige administration to implement best practices and improve the state’s warning system.
“We are committed to make sure that this never happens again,” he said. “We will continue to work with the administration to find out what we need to do for best practices and how we can carry on the responsibility to ensure that each and every citizen and guest of this state is going to be safe.”
He told reporters afterward that the Senate would seriously consider any funding requests to make good on that promise.
“The first and most important function the Legislature plays is funding the budget,” Kouchi said. “We’ll see what comes out during Friday’s hearings. … We’re all still trying to get information.”
Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English added that he and his colleagues want to make the warning system “better and make it fool-proof.”
“It helped us to find some of the flaws in the system and we’re going to take that information and make the system better,” English said.
In remarks to the media after the House and Senate opened their sessions, Gov. David Ige said his administration has already implemented changes to prevent similar false alarms in the future. Ige has appointed Brigadier Gen. Kenneth Hara to head an independent assessment of the missile alert system and implement any changes that may be needed.
“I do think that one of the lessons learned is that we all need to understand better what the appropriate response should be,” Ige said. “We intend to engage our entire community — business, nonprofits, individuals in our community to be prepared, to know what they should be doing, what action needs to be taken in order to keep themselves and their families safe.”
>> For the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s full coverage of Hawaii’s missile alert scare, go to http://808ne.ws/Hawaiimissilescare.