Military Officials, Defense Contractors Discuss Sequestration at Capitol
REPORT FROM HOUSE MAJORITY – Top military officers, Department of Defense contractors and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce met today at the State Capitol to discuss the near-term and long-term impacts of sequestration on Hawaii's military services and the local community.
Military officials indicated that the cutbacks would not affect their core functions. Major General Darryll Wong, Hawaii State Department of Defense said their "critical missions were exempt" and Major General Roger Mathews, U.S. Army Pacific said we have "prioritized our readiness".
While active military personnel are exempt from any cuts, they all expected around a 20% decrease in wages for civilian positions with the cuts coming primarily through furloughs. The loss in wages would affect discretionary spending, particularly for local retailers near military installations.
The impact on the defense contractors is not quite so clear. Most agreed that construction contracts that have been funded will move forward, but they expect delays to be inevitable
"We don't know what's coming. It's hard to gauge the impact," said Alan Hayashi of BAE, a civilian contractor who primarily does ship repair in Pearl Harbor but has subcontractors throughout all the islands in a variety of positions.
Ben Nakaoka, Vice President of Finance for Pacific Shipyards International who operates two dry docks expressed concern that they will have to terminate skilled craftsmen.
"If quality suffers or there isn't an adequate pool of skilled workers in the islands, the Navy can shift work to its' other West Coast shipyards," he told lawmakers.
Charles Ota, Vice President for Military Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, warned that Hawaii is in close competition with all the other US defense communities across the country, all protecting themselves against the loss of their military presence.
He noted, "even though Hawaii enjoys a strategic location in the mid-Pacific, today's fiscal realities, coupled with the advanced capabilities of today's high tech weapons systems, may soon override our strategic location in future basing decisions."
He added, "It is incumbent upon the legislature to avoid actions that would detract from encouraging the military to remain in Hawaii."
Representative K. Mark Takai, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans, Military & International Affairs said, "It has been good to have this dialogue as we consider ourselves an important member of the military team. We need to aggressively push for legislation that ensures the availability of adequate training areas for the Army and Marine Corps, ensures continuing ship repair at Pearl Harbor which is critical to the US Pacific Fleet and ensures that members of the military have strong representation in our government process."
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