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Defense bill includes over $300 million for Hawaii

Updated: 
November 20, 2017 - 3:46pm

HONOLULU — The $700 billion defense policy bill just passed by Congress states that North Korea nuclear and missile tests “constitute a grave and imminent threat” to Asia-Pacific security and calls for expansion of radar systems and a “sequenced approach” to the defense of Hawaii.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which lays out resource levels and defense policy for the year, reflects language inserted in the bill by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa that seeks the protection of testing and training operations at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

The Defense Department also will “assess the siting and functionality of a discrimination radar for homeland defense throughout the Hawaiian Islands before assessing the feasibility of improving the missile defense of Hawaii by using existing missile defense assets that could materially improve the defense of Hawaii,” the bill states.

The existing assets are 44 ground-based interceptors mainly in Alaska but also in California that are intended to protect Hawaii and the mainland from North Korean attack.

The measure was headed to President Donald Trump for approval.

A new missile still in development, the Standard Missile 3 Block IIA, is seen as having the ability to knock out at longer ranges North Korean ballistic missiles and is touted as a possible future defense for Hawaii that would be located in the state.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a release that the defense bill includes more than $300 million for military construction in Hawaii.

The Senate passed the bill Thursday. The House passed the measure Tuesday.

“This year’s NDAA reflects the central role Hawaii plays in supporting and advancing our country’s strategic interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a separate release.

The bill includes:

>> $90 million for Fort Shafter’s new command and control facility.

>> $73.2 million for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-­Hickam’s sewer lift station.

>> $65.9 million for a Navy communications facility in Wahiawa.

>> $26.5 million for Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Mokapu Gate.

>> $25 million for the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area.

>> $19 million for the Navy’s MV-22 Osprey landing pad.

>> $10.4 million for the Maui space surveillance system.

>> $6 million for energy resiliency projects at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

>> $5.5 million for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-­Hickam’s consolidated training facility.

>> $5 million for Wahiawa’s Kunia Tunnel entrance.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation supported an effort by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, to add 28 more ground-based missile interceptors for the North Korean threat.

The final spending bill states that the secretary of defense has the option of increasing the defensive missile total by 28 if consistent with the recommendations of a Ballistic Missile Defense Review that commenced in 2017.

The new SM-3 Block IIA missile is expected to go through additional flight testing in Hawaii next year. The Aegis Ashore test facility on Kauai has the ability to fire the missile.

The suggestion has been made repeatedly to “operationalize” the Aegis Ashore facility intermittently to provide extra defense for Hawaii, but a split exists between advocates of activating the site and those who think it would interfere with regular missile testing functions, jobs and community access at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

A medium-range discrimination radar that could cost $1 billion also is being pursued for Hawaii to aid in identifying North Korean warheads. The Missile Defense Agency said in May that initial radar capability is sought by 2023.

The NDAA authorizes the Pentagon to establish the “Indo-Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative” increasing the presence, capabilities and posture of the military in the region.

The defense bill also notes the “strategic value” of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, which is under review following the report of a fuel leak in 2014.

“If the facility were closed, the United States armed forces would be unable to support the National Military Strategy, including the goals of the United States Pacific commander, and national security interests would be significantly undermined,” the bill states.

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