Native Hawaiian-Owned Companies and the Militarization of Hawai’i

Jim Dooley wrote a revealing article for the Hawaii Reporter on the growth of Native Hawaiian Owned Companies (NHO) since the passage of legislation that gave them special preferences in federal contracting.  Under special provisions for Native American, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, these NHOs can get no-bid, unlimited sized contract awards, nearly all of it related to military funding.   Here’s an excerpt:

A handful of Native Hawaiian-owned companies used federal contracting preferences authored by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-HI, to land some $500 million in non-bid or reduced competition government work since 2005, according to federal purchasing records.

Officials, employees and partners of many of the same companies donated nearly $100,000 during the same period to the Inouye election campaign and $100,000 more to other members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, files of the Federal Election Commission show.

Much of the contract work involved installation of computer and communications systems for the armed services. A wide range of other jobs have been performed, including security guard work, explosive ordinance disposal and even provision of mental health professionals for treatment of U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

The article gives several specific examples of NHOs, including those associated with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and their military contracting programs.

A note on the source: the Hawaii Reporter is a conservative-right news outlet that has opposed programs for Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian sovereignty in any form or federal spending on social programs.   DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina usually disagrees with the editorial stances of the Hawaii Reporter on many of these issues. However, while our reasons may differ, we do agree with them on this point, that the public must be wary of the rise of NHOs in the context of corruption and lack of accountability in military pork barrel spending.  In our view, this system of NHO military contracting has increased Native Hawaiian dependency on and participation in a corrupt military-industrial complex.  In that way, NHOs promote the increasing militarization of Hawai’i.

In a perverse twist, Ken Conklin, known for his extreme anti-Native Hawaiian views, wrote a follow up editorial heavily drawing on original research by Hawaiian sovereignty activist and journalist Keala Kelly that lays out connections between NHOs, Alaska Native Corporations and leading proponents of the Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill.

Paul S. Schultz and Mun Won Chang (Fenton), a husband-wife team and two central figures in the Project Kai e’e/ Navy UARC scandal - a federal contracts fiasco involving the Navy, several high tech research programs at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, University of Hawai’i researchers and administrators and congressional earmarks by Senator Inouye – have recently turned up in the NHO fray.   It seems they have teamed up with former Governor John Waihe’e to form a NHO as a way to cash in on the Native Hawaiian military contracting bonanza. Their new entity is called Aina Kai Environmental.  But since neither Schultz nor Chang appear to have Native Hawaiian ancestry, Aina Kai with a Native Hawaiian principal appears to be a front for its partner company Hawaiya Technologies to access NHO for Super 8(a) contracts.

Recently the Army created a Native Hawaiian Advisory Council to counter community resistance to Army expansion plans. An example of how the military is using NHO contracting preferences to co-opt Native Hawaiians is a recent workshop sponsored by the Army Native Hawaiian Advisory Council to promote NHO military contracting opportunities.

The rise of “Tea Party” politics and the turning political tide in Washington D.C. may signal an end to the era of unbridled military earmarks in Hawai’i, at least temporarily.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that “141 Hawaii earmarks worth $321 million were in the omnibus 2011 spending bill that recently died in the Senate.”  This could be an opportunity to imagine and work for more peaceful, just and sustainable economic alternatives for Hawai’i.

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