Saturday, July 19, 2003

U.S. Senate approves
isle Stryker funds

Hawaii's military programs and installations are expected to receive $482 million, including $17.5 million to help create a Stryker brigade based at Schofield Barracks, under a defense spending bill that won unanimous approval from the Senate on Thursday.

The brigade funds are earmarked for gun placements and similar components for the vehicles, which are expected to be funded in later appropriations. The Stryker funds will be added to $71.8 million in construction appropriations already devoted to the project.

The brigade is "key to the Army's plans to transform itself into a much more efficient military component," said Mike Yuen, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

"The Stryker units would be more lethal than light units, which would be more mobile but wouldn't have the firepower," he said. "It's a way for us to respond quickly to any crisis in any part of the world."

The funds are part of $386.6 billion in the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, which passed 95-0 in the Senate.

Inouye said yesterday that a House-Senate conference committee will convene to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill before it may be sent to President Bush.

Inouye, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, said in a statement from Washington, D.C., that the Stryker brigade programs "are critical to the military's transformation plans, and the added funding will greatly assist the Department of Defense in meeting its goals."

He said the appropriation "provides sufficient funding to meet our readiness requirements for the coming year."

The bill also provides funding for the C-17 planes that would transport the quick-hitting Strykers to a combat zone. Once operational, the brigade at Schofield would be one of four in the nation.

Yuen said Hawaii's proximity to Asia, where North Korea remains a potential threat, makes the state an ideal location for such a mobile brigade.

The 19-ton, eight-wheeled armored vehicles can be outfitted in 10 different ways, with everything from a 105 mm cannon for a mobile gun system to a fully wired command center.

The state would also get $27 million for the Maui Space Surveillance System, $24 million for the development of telemedicine technology at Tripler Army Medical Center and $20 million for the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

The defense appropriations for the state are smaller than last year's $683 million. The largest portion of that, $202 million, went to modernizing the USS Bremerton submarine.

Also in the bill is a provision written by Inouye that increases the $5 million cap for the Native American Veterans Direct Loan Program. The program serves at least 50 native Hawaiians, some of whom are building homes on Hawaiian homestead land, Yuen said.

The cap was exceeded when more of those eligible began applying for the loans as interest rates fell. The provision removes the cap retroactive to Feb. 20, when the limitation took effect, he said.


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