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Hawaii will reap $266M in military construction, more spending for vets

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii is upgrading the wastewater treatment plant at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam by removing the floating steel roofs and replacing them with fixed aluminum dome covers. The new covers will help capture methane gas for future energy projects and use it as an alternative fuel source.

DENISE EMSLEY/U.S. NAVY

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 14, 2017

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Hawaii is in line to receive $266 million in military construction funding in fiscal 2018 that includes $90 million for a new Fort Shafter headquarters, as well as funding to improve Department of Veterans Affairs programs in the state.

The Senate Appropriations Committee included the measures in a bill passed Thursday that now heads to the full Senate.

“This is good news for a couple of reasons,” Schatz said in a conference call with reporters. “Even in a partisan environment, even in the middle of the fights that we’re engaging in, we were able to come together on a bipartisan basis and do our job to help veterans and make sure our facilities are in good repair.”

Schatz is the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

According to Schatz, the bill also includes:

  • $73.2 million for a sewer lift station and sewer line at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
  • $19 million for new MV-22 Osprey landing pads at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
  • $65.9 million for a communication/cryptologic facility in Wahiawa.
  • $5 million for the NSA “Tunnels” underground facility in Kunia.
  • $5.5 million for an Air Force Reserve training facility.

Last year Hawaii received $197 million in military construction funding, Schatz said. The year-to-year amount fluctuates with some projects causing periodic funding spikes. Across the Department of Defense, military construction is being increased by $2.1 billion — 25 percent over the 2017 level.

The $90 million for Fort Shafter will be used for the ongoing construction of a new “command and control” facility for U.S. Army Pacific.

InSynergy Engineering, which is working on the project, said in a May release that the nearly 241,000-square-foot complex is budgeted to cost $440 million.

The new complex will consolidate command and control and support functions at 12 separate pre-World War II buildings and temporary trailers.

At the project’s groundbreaking in 2012, Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, then commander of U.S. Army Pacific, said, “Those of you that have visited our headquarters over the years may have noticed that my office is located in building T-100. The ‘T’ stands for temporary. Seventy years later I think it’s safe to say our government got more out of these temporary facilities than we ever bargained for.”

U.S. Army Pacific was upgraded from a three-star command to four stars in 2013, reflecting the re-balance to the Pacific and the importance of the Army in the region.

Schatz said the $266 million in projects will “be a real infusion of money in terms of economic activity across the state of Hawaii.”

“It’s also important because it continues to demonstrate the Department of Defense’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific generally, but also specifically to Hawaii continuing to play a role” in the region, Schatz added.

He also said cyber efforts are “an increasing need across the Department of Defense” and that Hawaii “has developed a lot of expertise, and we’re actually able to provide a significant amount of the workforce for the work that we do. So this is a growth area for us in the defense space and also among the civilian intelligence agencies.”

He said in a release that in addition to military construction, the bill provides $78.4 billion to Veterans Affairs — $4 billion more than enacted in fiscal 2017.

Included in the new amount, Schatz said, is:

  • $110 million to fund VA grants for construction of state extended-care facilities that will “make progress toward” funding a new 120-bed facility in Honolulu.
  • $20 million to help ensure that the more than 13,000 female veterans in Hawaii have access to care.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said in another release that the separate recent passage by the Senate Armed Services Committee of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 secured key priorities that “support America’s strategic interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

The authorization sets policy direction with actual spending appropriated through multiple bills.

Hirono said $26.5 million was earmarked for improvements to Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Mokapu gate and $25 million for the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island.

©2017 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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