Postponed conferences hit military, Hawaii economy
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
As Congress scrambled Tuesday for a way out of the budget conundrum, the government shutdown continued to take away millions from Hawaii's economy and negatively affect military engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.
At least three recently scheduled civic and foreign military engagement conferences have been postponed in Honolulu — causing canceled hotel stays and a loss of related expenditures.
U.S. Pacific Command said it is postponing the 16th annual Asia-Pacific Chiefs of Defense Conference, originally Oct. 21-24, due to fiscal restraints stemming from a lapse in U.S. federal appropriations.
Senior military leaders from 25 nations were scheduled to attend the Honolulu event, which last year was held in Sydney.
The conference "remains a premier forum to bring together senior military leaders from many nations in the Asia-Pacific region to meet and discuss mutual security challenges, improve mutual relationships and foster security cooperation," U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith said in a statement.
The 2013 Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium — scheduled for Friday to Oct. 26 — also has been postponed.
The symposium would have brought together in Hawaii air chiefs and commanders from 17 Asia-Pacific countries to discuss defense, security and international issues throughout the region.
Attendees also were scheduled to visit three mainland Air Force bases as well as Washington D.C., the Air Force said.
"This is incredibly important to both us and our Asia-Pacific partners," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Pacific Air Forces. "We will continue to focus on providing support, friendship, security and stability to the region, even as we face challenges like this."
The countries scheduled to attend included Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States.
The symposium is planned to be rescheduled in 2014.
"This was a great opportunity — and it will be a great opportunity (in the future) — for us to actually have all these air chiefs in one location," said Lt. Col. Aaron Burgstein, a Pacific Air Forces spokesman. "The dialogue that goes on in an environment like that, it's not one or two air chiefs together, it's 17, so that's unfortunately what we lost on that."
Also postponed was an Air Force chief of staff civic advisory group meeting that was to be held last week and would have brought about 23 people from around the country to Hawaii to hear about the re-balance to the Pacific, officials said.
The conferences "fall under areas that we're not allowed to do right now," Burgstein said. Although "incredibly important," the meetings are part of engagement, "and that's one of the things that we're not doing nearly as much of right now," he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the closure Tuesday of all its regulatory offices due to the government shutdown, meaning possible delays for sea wall, beach replenishment or dredging applications.
There was some good news: The nonprofit USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park received permission from its Navy landlord to reopen Tuesday using a service entrance.
The Bowfin is not a federal entity, but found itself cut off because its visitors normally enter through the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center for the USS Arizona Memorial, which remains closed.