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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2008

$544M requested for military in Isles

By Dennis Camire
Advertiser Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON— Military spending for construction in Hawai'i next year would total $544 million under the $3.1 trillion budget request President Bush unveiled yesterday.

The request calls for $279 million to continue the 20-year "Whole Barracks Renewal" program at Schofield Barracks and expansion of the water, power and other infrastructure needed to support it.

"I am pleased that the president is proposing a healthy military construction budget for Hawai'i," said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, chairman of the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee. "The military construction projects ... are a reflection of Hawai'i's importance as a crucial strategic location."

Bush has proposed increasing the budget for defense spending to $515 billion, nearly 8 percent higher than last year. Of that, money for military construction would increase 8.9 percent to $18.2 billion.

Other Hawai'i projects include $40 million for an Army wideband satellite communications operations center at Wahiawa; $41.1 million for a facility at Pearl Harbor to help submarines maintain their stealth capabilities; and $19.2 million for an Army Reserve center at Fort Shafter.

The budget request's proposed military construction spending in Hawai'i next year is about the same as this year's allotment.

But Bush's request is only the first step in the congressional approval process, which can change the dollar amounts and projects.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the military construction money for Hawai'i "means good-paying jobs for local people."

"But that's about all the hopeful news" there is in Bush's budget request, said Abercrombie, noting the president's budget cuts Medicare and Medicaid by $144 billion and eliminates or reduces about 50 educational programs, including some for Native Hawaiians and Native Alaskans.

Under the proposed budget, the Navy will continue building its new drive-in "magnetic silencing facility" for submarines next year at Beckoning Point at Pearl Harbor.

Other Navy projects at Pearl Harbor include $29.3 million for a child development center, $45 million for a fitness center and almost $6 million for a joint forces deployment area. About $28.2 million would be used for building new barracks for enlisted troops at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i at Kane'ohe Bay.

Reach Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.