Posted at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, July 22, 2004
Hawai'i defense projects boosted
By Frank Oliveri
Advertiser Washington Bureau
The bill is the product of House and Senate negotiations over the past few weeks. The funding designated for Hawai'i projects reflects the growing importance of Hawai'i to the nation's defense posture. The bill goes to President Bush for his signature after Congress completes action.
Military spending represents about a quarter of Hawai'i's economy, or about $10 billion annually, according to Lawrence Boyd, an economist with the University of Hawai'i. He said defense spending is fueling Hawai'i's economy and has helped to reduce the state's unemployment rate to about 3.1 percent.
"We are getting to the point where the economy is getting beyond full employment," Boyd said. "This money is coming to Hawai'i because of its strategic interest to the U.S. military.'"
Sen. Daniel Inouye, the top Democrat on the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, said that Hawai'i is crucial to the nation's defense.
"It is where cutting-edge, high-tech research is under way to more quickly detect the enemy, improve combat efficiency, and better treat combat-related injuries," he said recently.
Hawai'i's defense spending focuses on a number of technology upgrades, such as $34.5 million for the Army's high-tech intelligence system, which covers the Pacific.
It also provides for health research, including $23 million for a telemedicine research initiative at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. The program uses telecommunications for medical diagnosis, patient care and education. Also, $8.5 million was set aside for the creation of a partnership between Tripler and the Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i to improve clinical care and expansion plans.
The defense bill also helps fight a growing drug problem in Hawai'i. About $2.7 million was set aside to support a National Guard program to intercept drugs in places such as ports and airports, while also supporting anti-drug programs for youths.
The spending bill targets money for environmental projects, such as $1.1 million for the study of dolphin and whale hearing acoustics and $1 million for brown tree snake control.
There is significant money set aside $33.9 million for the Maui Space Surveillance System, which houses the Defense Department's largest telescope, the Advanced Electro-Optical System.
Another $8 million was set aside for the Pacific Missile Range Facility, one of the largest employers on the island of Kaua'i. The money would specifically support the force protection lab, which provides security technology for bases.
Overall, the defense measure would provide $416.2 billion for the Pentagon, including $25 billion in emergency money for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It represents a $25.4 billion increase over fiscal 2004, excluding emergency war funding.
The House and Senate also are working to complete a fiscal 2005 military construction spending bill, which includes $368.4 million for Hawai'i projects. Final action is expected after the summer recess, which begins tomorow.