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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/25/15

Smaller Army here a chance to blossom anew

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Message Ann Wright
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Co-written By *Laurel Mei Turbin and Kyle Kajihiro

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii is one of the Army's most diverse and complex garrisons
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As residents of Hawaii and representatives of a broad coalition of community organizations working for peace and justice, we support the proposal to downsize the Army in Hawaii.

We see the reduction of 19,800 military personnel as a starting point for a larger scale removal of military presence in the islands.

Army downsizing would significantly reduce the burden of the military on our limited island resources.

Hawaii's Department of Education spends $115 million out-of-pocket (unreimbursed) to educate dependent children of Army personnel, and the state of Hawaii and City and County of Honolulu spend millions more to provide other services to soldiers and their dependents.

Further, generous housing and cost-of-living allowances for military personnel inflate the cost of housing for non-military persons; the reduction of troops would ease this existing strain on the civilian housing market and make the islands more affordable for non-military families.

And in addition to destroying cultural sites, military training imposes a tremendous environmental burden, leaving behind unexploded ordnances and contaminating land, ocean and air.

As military bases occupy a quarter of Oahu, a reduced military presence could free up land for housing, community-based agriculture, and other indus- tries to benefit our local economy.

We acknowledge that troop reduction would generate hardship for workers and families whose livelihoods are tied to the bases -- and sympathize with their plight -- but we take issue with claims that troop reduction would be economically "catastrophic" in the long run. A 2015 study by Marc Doussard, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that "the economic benefits of soldier-based activities are smaller than most economic development alternatives."

A 1999 study by professor of development Ted Bradshaw following the closure of Castle Air Force Base in Merced, Calif., concluded that predictions of dire consequences from base closure were inaccurate, as military retiree spending shifted from commissary to local stores, jobs for military spouses became available to nonmiltary residents and housing construction continued.

Following a round of base closures in the early 1990s, the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment -- the lead federal agency on military base reuse -- issued a 1993 report that stated: "The experience of communities affected by earlier base realignments clearly indicates that communities can successfully adjust to dislocations and base closures."

In order to mitigate the immediate shock to base-dependent workers and businesses, the Department of Defense, Hawaii's congressional delegation and other agencies could create a substantial economic transition package to assist dislocated workers with training and employment, similar to what occurs when recovering from a natural disaster. This should include training for dislocated workers, short-term relief for hard-hit businesses, and investment in a locally driven, forward-looking base conversion process.

We cannot ignore the grave historical injustices committed by the U.S. military: The military-backed overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani in 1893; the occupation of Hawaii in 1898; and the military build-up during World War II that dispossessed Native Hawaiians of land, particularly Makua Valley, which the U.S. military promised to return six months after the end of World War II.

We also find the premise that our economic livelihoods in Hawaii must feed on war elsewhere morally reprehensible. We grieve about the deaths from ongoing war, including U.S. casualties.

To revise the recycling slogan, we urge officials to: Reduce the Army presence in Hawaii, Reimagine our futures, and support the Rebirth of a more diversified and vibrant local economy.

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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