February 23, 2008
Critics claim politics steers Stryker plans
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Opponents of the Army’s plan to base its fifth Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks disagree with the Pentagon’s conclusion that the move would fill strategic and national security needs.
The Pentagon’s reasoning is outlined in the final version of a court-ordered environmental study that the Army conducted on whether to base the brigade in the islands, Alaska or Colorado. Opponents sued to require the study several years ago, claiming the Army did not adequately weight alternatives to Hawaii.
Bill Aila, one of the plaintiffs in a long-standing legal case against permanently locating the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Schofield, contends that politics and not national defense is the driving force.
Another opponent, Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, questioned the Army’s wisdom in stationing 328 eight-wheeled, 19-ton vehicles in the middle of the Pacific since there would be no place to land if cargo planes transporting the Strykers developed mechanical problems.
In reviewing the two alternates — Alaska and Colorado — that the Army rejected, Henkin said it would be easier for transport aircraft to find places to land if mainland Army bases were used.
Henkin again questioned why the Army keeps rejecting the inclusion of Fort Lewis in Washington state in its deliberations as a federal appeals court ordered it to do two years ago.
He said Hawaii is farther away from “hot spots in Asia” than Washington and Alaska.
The Army estimates that “it would take 300 sorties of C-17s to mobilize this brigade,” Henkin added, “and Hawaii only has six to eight of these jet cargo planes at Hickam Air Force Base.”
“Where are all those planes?” Henkin asked. “They are on the West Coast.”
The 743-page supplemental environmental impact statement was released yesterday by the Army Environmental Command in Maryland. A final decision will be made by Pentagon leaders before the end of March.
The report said Lt. Gen. James Thurman, Army deputy chief of staff, selected Hawaii because keeping the brigade here would give the Army two Pacific outposts from which to deploy the eight-wheeled, heavy-duty vehicles and the soldiers who operate them. The Army already has one Stryker brigade in Alaska.
In October 2006 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the supplemental environmental study because it believed that a 2004 study did not adequately analyze alternatives to Hawaii.
Last December the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq for 15 months after completing its training under a limited court exemption. When fully manned and equipped, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team will include 4,105 soldiers and 1,000 vehicles, including 328 eight-wheeled, 19-ton combat vehicles.
The entire study is available at www.aec.army.mil.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.