Hundreds attend Army ‘Listening Session’

| January 30, 2015 | 0 Comments
WAHIAWA — Panelists listen to community members discuss their opinions about reduced forces at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter at the Listening Session, here, Jan. 28. From left are Col. Tom O’Donoghue, Force Management and Integration, Force Management, Army G-3/5/7; John P. McLaurin, deputy director, Force Management, Army G-3/5/7; and Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, commander, U.S. Army-Hawaii and 25th Infantry Division (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

WAHIAWA — Panelists listen to community members discuss their opinions about reduced forces at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter at the Listening Session, here, Jan. 28. From left are Col. Tom O’Donoghue, Force Management and Integration, Force Management, Army G-3/5/7; John P. McLaurin, deputy director, Force Management, Army G-3/5/7; and Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, commander, U.S. Army-Hawaii and 25th
Infantry Division (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

Story and photos by Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

FORT DERUSSY — Hundreds of community members gathered at DeRussy Hall, Hale Koa Hotel, here, Tuesday evening, at the first of two U.S. Army listening sessions on the island, to provide input regarding a possible reduction of Army personnel at Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks.

The second listening session took place Wednesday evening at Leilehua High School.

WAHIAWA — Col. Tim Falkner, deputy director, Installation Management Command-Pacific, calls on the next community member to discuss opinions about reduced forces at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter at the Listening Session, here, Jan. 28. (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

WAHIAWA — Col. Tim Falkner, deputy director, Installation Management Command-Pacific, calls on the next community member to discuss opinions about reduced forces at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter at the Listening Session, here, Jan. 28. (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

John P. McLaurin, deputy director of Force Management, Headquarters Department of the Army, G3/5/7, and Col. Tom O’Donoghue, U.S. Army Force Integration officer, Headquarters Department of the Army, G3/5/7, were on hand from Washington, D.C., and accompanied by Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army-Hawaii.

In its worst-case scenario, the Army is considering proposed reductions of 16,000 Soldiers and civilian employees from Schofield Barracks and 3,800 Soldiers and civilian employees from Fort Shafter for a total proposed reduction of 19,800 Soldiers.

There are currently approximately 22,000 Soldiers living and working in Hawaii, and the proposed reductions would also impact approximately 30,000 Army family members living in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s elected officials said such cuts would be devastating to the state’s economy and would jeopardize national security.

WAHIAWA — Community members gather to hear and provide "testimony" regarding the Army's proposed reductions of Soldiers and their family members at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter. (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

WAHIAWA — Community members gather to hear and provide “testimony” regarding the Army’s proposed reductions of Soldiers and their family members at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter. (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono ,U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, U.S. Rep. Mark Takai and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard all appeared via video to remind Army officials of Hawaii’s strategic importance in the Asia-Pacific Region and to emphasize that they are against the budget cuts that are behind the Army’s proposed downsizing.

Hirono said that military activity is one of the two most important economic drivers in the state.

WAHIAWA — Community members stand in line to provide "testimony" regarding the Army's proposed reductions of Soldiers and their family members at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter at the Listening Session at Leilehua High School, Jan. 28. (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

WAHIAWA — Community members stand in line to provide “testimony” regarding the Army’s proposed reductions of Soldiers and their family members at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter at the Listening Session at Leilehua High School, Jan. 28. (Photo by Lacey Justinger, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

“There are over 22,000 active duty Army in Hawaii, plus their families,” she said. “Annual Army active duty and civilian payroll total nearly $1.5 billion.”

Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell were present and also supported the Army staying in Hawaii.

But many of the community members who showed up at the listening session spoke in favor of reducing the Army’s presence in Hawaii. State Rep. Kaniela Ing of Maui said that Hawaii had seen the sunset of many industries – sandalwood, pineapple and sugar to name a few – and that it would recover from demilitarization.

Tuesday’s listening session was one of 30 that the Army is hosting at installations nationwide as it continues its analysis into possibly reducing its overall force strength to 420,000 to comply with the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“Here’s what’s happening,” said O’Donoghue in his briefing to Tuesday’s audience. “In June of 2013, the Army announced its plans to reduce (its force strength) from a wartime high of roughly 570,000 Soldiers down to 490,000 Soldiers, (a reduction of) roughly 80,000 Soldiers. The decisions were made, (and) that is underway now, and we will achieve 490,000 Soldiers by October.

“Hawaii was not impacted by those decisions,” he continued. “Of the 80,000 Soldiers reduced … approximately 11,000 Soldiers came out of Europe and another 32,000 Soldiers were part of a temporary end strength and wartime allowance that was necessary to plus­up units that were going to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

WAHIAWA — As community members provided "testimony" at the Listening Session inside Leilehua High School, Jan. 28, other members were waving signs outside on California Street. Above, Larry Dembinski, front, among other community members, supports "Keep Hawaii's Heroes." He believes the Army provides a "better community" and all "benefit from meeting and mixing" with the Army. (Photo by Aiko Rose Brum, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

WAHIAWA — As community members provided “testimony” at the Listening Session inside Leilehua High School, Jan. 28, other members were waving signs outside on California Street. Above, Larry Dembinski, front, among other community members, supports “Keep Hawaii’s Heroes.” He believes the Army provides a “better community” and all “benefit from meeting and mixing” with the Army. (Photo by Aiko Brum, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

But he went on to explain that the Budget Control Act of 2011 didn’t end with the reduction of those 80,000 Soldiers.

“There’s a second round, kind of a kicker, called sequestration, that is part of the Budget Control Act, and under sequestration the Army’s budget will be reduced by an additional $95 billion,” he said.

To meet these budget constraints, the Army is looking to further reduce its force strength to 450,000 or even to 420,000 if the sequestration continues, he said. And this round of reductions will likely come from force strength that is actually stationed in the United States.

The Army has not made any decision on how it will meet its budget constraints and which installations will be impacted. Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn said that those decisions would likely not be made until mid-2015.

Army officials said they will use the information and input they receive at the sessions to determine how to proceed.

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