This was a very interesting op ed from Senator Inouye. It came after the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Federal District Court and found that the Army decision to station the Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Hawai’i without considering alternatives violated NEPA. Inouye makes several arguments: (1) He tries to explain why the Army’s predecision to station the SBCT in Hawai’i was justified and proper; (2) He defends his own dealings with Gen. Shinseki asproper; (3) He defends the Stryker’s performance; (4) He tries to guilt trip opponents of the project for not backing a program that protects troops; (5) He evokes the spectre of bloodthirsty terrorists at our doorstep to alarm the reader; (6) He tries to guilt trip opponents for disrupting billion dollar construction projects and forcing Strykers to sit idle; (7) He goes so far to say that supporting the Strykers is downright patriotic; and the most interesting of all, (8) He tries to distance the Strykers from the war.
Posted on: Sunday, December 17, 2006
Don’t fence them in
By U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye
In 1999, the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, informed me that he intended to transform our Army by making it lighter and more lethal, thereby allowing it to deploy more quickly and fight longer. He requested and received Congress’ support for a new advanced vehicle, the Stryker, which would become the backbone of the redesigned infantry brigade.
Many months later, the chief called to tell me that, after looking at all the Army bases in the United States, he would recommend basing one of the Stryker brigades at Schofield Barracks, if an assessment from a full environmental impact study showed it was safe. The two-year study noted that there would be some risk; however, it concluded that the Army could sufficiently mitigate the primary environmental concerns. Plans were then formulated to begin this powerful transformation.
Not everyone agreed. A few antimilitary and environmental groups opposed Gen. Shinseki’s plan. They sued, contending that Strykers did not belong in Hawai’i. The U.S. District Court reviewed this matter in great detail and concluded in 2005 that the Stryker basing could go forward as planned. However, in October of this year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the District Court’s recommendation, not because of any pressing environmental concerns, but because Gen. Shinseki had not formally examined all other basing options before choosing Hawai’i.
As a result of this ruling, 167 Stryker vehicles are sitting idle at Schofield Barracks. Hundreds more sit in warehouses on the Mainland waiting to be shipped. Approximately 4,000 soldiers at Schofield Barracks have had to stop training but are still slated for deployment in 2007. Our country is at war. With the pace of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, our Army is stretched thin. We simply cannot afford to stand down any of our forces right now. This is particularly true of the Stryker brigades.
Today, Stryker brigades are the most effective and highly sought-after units for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Because Strykers protect and save the lives of our soldiers. Gen. Shinseki was right once again. The Army is desperately seeking approval to train our Stryker brigade because it is scheduled to deploy next year. For the safety of our soldiers we must allow the training to resume while the Army completes the supplemental environmental study that examines other locations, as required by the court.
There have been some who question why Strykers should be in Hawai’i, instead of Washington or Alaska. First and foremost, national security demands it. Gen. Shinseki selected Hawai’i because of its strategic location. Today, Southwest Asia is the frontline on the global war on terror; tomorrow it could be Southeast Asia. Terrorists are fighting in the Philippines. They are active in Indonesia and are attempting to gain footholds in other countries in our region. In addition to terrorism, there are other threats to the region. We face an unstable, dangerous and well-armed dictator in North Korea. We also know from the past that new threats emerge that we are unable to forecast today. It is essential to our security, our economy and our way of life today and tomorrow that we are prepared to defend and protect the Asia-Pacific region.
At the same time, we are cutting back our overseas forces. In fact, we are finalizing plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. To remain engaged and credible, we must maintain forces on U.S. soil in the region. Basing a rapidly deployable and lethal Stryker brigade in Hawai’i will signal to those who may wish to do us harm that we are prepared to meet our security objectives in the region.
The nation has made a significant investment to base Strykers in Hawai’i. More than $63 million has been spent in Hawai’i, $230 million is on hold, and a total of $1.9 billion is planned for military construction projects in Hawai’i. It is costing the government nearly $1 million every month for the delays caused by the work stoppage. And it is costing jobs as layoffs of Hawai’i residents are beginning to occur.
Some contend that we could train the Stryker brigade elsewhere. While it is possible to relocate the Stryker brigade, that also may require lengthy environmental analyses to be conducted and the expenditure of millions of dollars. Additional delays in relocating the brigade will only increase the pressure on our overworked military. Furthermore, base and training space are limited. If we have to devote facilities and ranges outside of Hawai’i which are currently being used by other units, we will not be able to efficiently and effectively train our military forces.
In 2002, I voted against providing President Bush with the authority to attack Iraq. I continue to believe it was an error. However, I have and will continue to do everything I can to support our troops. This issue on the Stryker brigade should not be a referendum on the Iraq war.
Today, less than 1 percent of Americans are willing to make the sacrifice to wear our nation’s uniform. They deserve our support.
They deserve the best equipment and the best training we can provide to prepare them for battle. They serve to preserve our democracy. But for our democracy to continue to flourish, all Americans must do their part.
Hawai’i’s strategic location makes it critical that we base a large number of forces here to ensure our nation’s security. We do our part to serve our country by welcoming our Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force personnel into our home.
The Army must complete the supplemental environmental work as requested by the appeals court. However, as these studies are ongoing, our soldiers should not be penalized and placed in harm’s way in faraway, dangerous lands without receiving the training they need to protect themselves, and get the job done. We also should not extend their deployment and time away from their families because they are forced to receive their training and equipment in another state. They should not have to make this further sacrifice.
We have asked enough from these warriors. It’s our turn to support them and their need to adequately train in Hawai’i. It should be our duty.
Daniel K. Inouye is Hawai’i’s senior U.S. senator. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.