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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 2, 2006

Cost of Stryker delays could approach $49M

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The Army has estimated that delays to its Stryker brigade construction program here could cost $15.6 million to $49.1 million, as the military and the business community weigh the ramifications of a recent federal court ruling halting the massive project.

The Oct. 22 report by Lawrence T. Kawasaki, a program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District, says that the Army has already spent more than $63.1 million in Stryker construction work and $46.2 million in land acquisition.

Suspending work for 18 months while an environmental analysis is conducted would cost $15.6 million, while terminating contracts and re-awarding them later could cost more than $49.1 million, it is estimated.

"Suspending or terminating (Stryker) construction projects will have an adverse impact on Hawai'i's contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and workers," Kawasaki said.

All work and training with the 19-ton armored vehicles was halted last Friday after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction.

In a 2-1 decision on Oct. 5, the San Francisco-based court ruled that the Army violated environmental law by not considering alternative locations outside Hawai'i for a Stryker brigade.

The Army now must complete a supplementary environmental analysis to consider alternative locations. Such an analysis is expected to take a year to two years.

The stunning defeat for the Army, which overturned a decision in its favor in federal District Court in Honolulu, also means the Army may possibly need to move the brigade and training for it temporarily to the West Coast for an upcoming Iraq deployment, and calls into question the longer-term viability of the 3,900-soldier unit in the Islands.

"We're still kind of sorting through it, frankly," said Jim Tollefson, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i. "But we are obviously concerned with the impact on the military for not being able to train, and the impact on the economy for cutting off all construction."

The suspension of Stryker-related work and training is expected to be in place until the Army completes the supplemental environmental analysis. The Department of the Army continues to weigh its options, and a local Army official yesterday said he had no comment on the case.

David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney who represented three Native Hawaiian groups in their lawsuit against the Army, said the Army's contracts require it to continue to pay contractors if there is a suspension of work "due to things that happen on the Army's side of the equation."

"In terms of impacts to the economy and people being out of work and people not having jobs, what this tells you is their contracts require the government to pay them until they find other jobs, and they anticipate they will find other jobs over an 18-month period," Henkin said.

The Stryker brigade is emblematic of a military resurgence in Hawai'i along with C-17 cargo aircraft brought in partly to transport the Stryker vehicles plans for F-22 Raptor aircraft at Hickam Air Force Base, and the possibility of an aircraft carrier or carrier-like amphibious assault ship at Pearl Harbor.

"Strykers lead to C-17s, and that leads to this, this and this you kind of go down the list," Tollefson said.

In its decision to issue the injunction, the 9th Circuit said: "We should not permit defendants to render meaningless our holding that they should have considered alternatives to transformation in Hawai'i by allowing them to continue with their implementation plan."

Henkin said he and his clients warned the Army in 2002 that its environmental planning was deficient.

"We're a nation of laws and the Army is supposed to uphold our way of life, and Congress has told the Army that before they made this decision that they were supposed to look at the way that they could carry out their mission in the least environmentally harmful way including looking at other stationing alternatives," Henkin said.

The $700 million in construction projects on O'ahu and the Big Island for the 328-vehicle Stryker brigade represent one of the biggest Army projects in Hawai'i since World War II.

The total Stryker brigade cost is about $1.5 billion. Henkin said to hold the contracts and work in suspension for 18 months would cost about 1 percent, or $15.6 million, a "manini" amount for the Army.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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