Pearl Harbor planning for $220 million project
By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer
The military is planning to build a $220 million complex at Pearl Harbor for intelligence gathering and analysis that would be one of the largest projects at the naval base in coming years.
The proposed project, to be called the Pacific Security Analysis Complex, would become the new home for the Navy's Regional Security Operations Center in Kunia a massive complex about 15 miles west of Honolulu and the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific.
The U.S. Pacific Command is seeking money for the project in the government's 2004 fiscal year, which starts next October. The project's goals are to cut costs, increase intelligence collaboration and boost security for the military agency whose operations stretch across the Asia-Pacific region.
Pacific Command spokeswoman Mary Hanson declined this week to provide details on the project, citing security and money concerns, but acknowledged that planning is well under way.
"All we can say is it's not currently funded," Hanson said. "We cannot offer any more details."
The Navy estimates that it would cost $185 million to upgrade the Kunia facility, where personnel gather and analyze communications signals that are gathered covertly. The facility was built in 1945 and renovated in 1979. Annual operating costs at an upgraded facility would run about $8 million, according to congressional testimony earlier this year by Dennis Blair, former commander of Pacific Command.
The Joint Intelligence Center Pacific, located at Pearl Harbor, provides analysis, threat assessment and assignment of U.S. military forces, according to a defense analyst. Although the exact location has not been disclosed, Blair said in his testimony that its location on a main civilian thoroughfare makes it vulnerable to attack.
Combining the center with the Kunia operation, Blair said, would reduce operating costs and bring intelligence operations together.
Because building a new facility to house both operations would result in annual operating costs of $6 million, Blair added in his testimony that "it would be less costly in the long term to build the new facility."
Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, a defense-policy research group based in Washington, D.C., noted that the Kunia site needs renovation. Construction of the three-story earthen-covered building was started just after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It initially was expected to house an aircraft production facility, but after the end of World War II it was used for ammunition and torpedo storage. By the 1990s, the facility had become a prime source of intelligence-gathering in the Pacific, Aftergood said.
Aftergood said he sees the plan to consolidate the Kunia and Pearl Harbor sites as a sensible one. "They obviously have a good deal of overlap and would benefit from combining facilities and people," Aftergood said.
As for the timing of the project, "The sensitivity to security issues has intensely increased since the terrorist attacks," he said. "Because it's located near a public highway (the Joint Intelligence Center) is more vulnerable than they'd like it to be."
It's unclear how much support the $220 million project which would eclipse the new $78 million headquarters for the Pacific Command scheduled for completion a year from now will receive when Congress begins fiscal 2004 budget talks next month.
At least one local defense contractor expects the Navy to proceed with plans to seek bidders for the complex next year, should it receive support.
"This is the biggest project the Navy will have out there in the next couple years," said John Ogoshi, business development manager for construction management company Dick Corp.'s Hawai'i operations, which plans to bid on the project.
Reach Sean Hao at email@example.com or 525-8093.