Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Budget falls for
military construction

By Gregg K. Kakesako

More than $203.7 million in new military construction for the islands is contained in the $9 billion Pentagon request for construction projects and family housing programs for the federal fiscal year that begins in October.

That is about half the $383 million worth of Hawaii military projects approved for the current fiscal year. The Pentagon, in a news release, said the request "reflects the administration's emphasis on improving the quality of life for military personnel by providing better working and living conditions."

Mike Slackman, spokesman for Hawaii Rep Neil Abercrombie, said, the Pentagon's overall budget request for military construction is down about $1 billion from last year.

But, "At this point, it is just the first volley in the process," he said. "This is just the starting point and should not be viewed as the end point."

Of the 300 major construction projects at 180 locations announced by the Pentagon yesterday, five are in Hawaii. They range from new apartment complexes for soldiers at Schofield Barracks to a mental health clinic at Hickam Air Force Base. In a separate request, $24.7 million is requested for new family units at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and $29 million for Hickam Air Force Base.

The Hawaii Army National Guard also could receive $22.4 million to continue renovating its Kalaeloa facilities.

At Schofield, the fiscal 2003 request includes $91 million to continue the 25th Division's program to renovate its barracks, converting them to apartment-style units. Another $49 million would go to tear down three buildings belonging to Quads I, J and K on Capron Avenue, replacing them with high-rise living complexes.

Another $42 million would be spent to renovate five other Schofield buildings, which cannot be torn down because they have been declared historic structures. They were built before World War II and the exteriors of the buildings cannot be changed. The Army plans to gut the interiors and replace them with single units.

The Army plans to separate the administrative offices from the ground-level units in the five buildings and consolidate them into one building in each complex. It is estimated that the construction project could mean 600 to 800 jobs next year.

The appropriation request also includes $2.7 million to relocate the life skills clinic at Hickam to the base's main medical facility; $23.4 million for Kauai's Barking Sands missile testing facility; and $10.5 million to construct a new reinforced concrete wharf on concrete pile foundation, with a capacity to support 100-ton and 220-ton crane loads at Bravo Pier in Pearl Harbor.

The administration's fiscal 2003 request provides $3.6 billion for military construction, including environmental compliance; $600 million for base closure activities; $200 million for the NATO Security Investment Program and $400 million for planning and design for future projects and unspecified minor construction.

The request also provides $2.9 billion for operating and maintaining almost 300,000 family housing units and $1.3 billion for constructing, improving and privatizing family housing units, including units at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay and Hickam Air Force Base.

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