Local military impact of budget cuts goes before lawmakers

By Jill Kuramoto
Published On: Mar 06 2013 05:11:00 PM HST

Hawaii's military leaders stood front and center and warned state lawmakers that federal budget cuts will ripple throughout the community.

HONOLULU -

It's the military's warning shot across the bow.  Hawaii's military leaders stood front and center Wednesday and warned lawmakers that federal budget cuts will ripple throughout the community.

"It's more realistic to see sequestration as rolling down a long, steep and bumpy hill," said Rear Adm. Denny Weatherald.

The Navy says across-the-board budget cuts won't be pretty for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

"The net effect of sequestration will have a negative impact in the Asia/Indo-Pacific at a critical time," said Weatherald.

No one at Wednesday's hearing on military affairs minced words on the local impact.

"On a per-capita basis, Hawaii is expected to be the most severely impacted by cuts in defense spending," said Charles Ota from the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

About 18,000 civilian employees are being put on furlough or could lose their jobs starting April 25.  The Army says to expect overall soldier spending to decrease.

"All of this basically means that U.S. Pacific is slowing down," said Maj. Gen. Roger Matthews of the U.S. Army Pacific, Fort Shafter.

Training and operation will be affected with the Navy cutting spending by $110 million.

The Air Force is cutting spending by $103 million.

The Hawaii National Guard says its fleet of F-22s will continue to be available for alert missions.  But its personnel are not exempt from cuts.

"Hawaii National population that will potentially be affected will be a technician population of about 1,163," said Maj. Gen. Darryl Wong of the Hawaii State Department of Defense.

There was some good news from defense contractor BAE which had to furlough 125 employees and let 70 of them go.

"We just got word that Monday we'll be putting some of those folks back to work.  So that's good news," said Alan Hayashi from BAE.  "On the other side of the coin, we don't know what's coming."

All commands assure the state what won't be compromised is the security and stability in the Pacific.

"We have a statutory responsibility to be the most ready when the nation is least ready," said Col. David Tagg of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

The governor's task force is already addressing how the state will respond to the economic impact caused by the sequestration cuts.

Rep. K. Mark Takai says lawmakers will also look into how to address the immediate needs of people impacted by the layoffs.

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