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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pentagon moves
to consolidate

The recommendations would
eliminate 305 civilian jobs
in Hawaii, and 83 major bases
nationwide face closure

Hawaii almost missed a BRAC attack.

Although none of Hawaii's 83 major installations were placed on the Base Realignment and Closure chopping block by the Pentagon, Hawaii will lose 305 civilian jobs with the closure of a small military finance and payroll operation and a civilian personnel office by 2011.

Also affected under the proposed realignment and consolidations at Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base are 186 military positions.

Under the fifth Base Realignment and Closure round of cuts, the Pentagon proposed closing 19 locations of its Defense Finance and Accounting Service yesterday, including one at Ford Island that has 130 civilian workers and five military personnel.

The Pentagon report lists 213 civilian workers and 29 military personnel, but Claudia Bogard, agency spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said that figure is outdated and that only 130 civilians and five uniformed service members now work on Ford Island.

The Pentagon wants to consolidate the activities of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at three locations to the Defense Supply Center in Columbus, Ohio; Buckley Air Force Base Annex in Denver; and Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center in Indianapolis.

Bogard said the Ford Island operations will be relocated to Columbus, and civilian workers in Hawaii would be given the chance to work there.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said such a move was "anticipated" given the current advances in technology, computers and electronics.

"Now ... people use computers instead of adding machines," Inouye said. "You need fewer people to do payroll work."

The biggest surprise was at Pearl Harbor, where its Human Resources Service Center -- which manages the civilians who work in the Pacific for the Navy -- will close, putting 65 civilians out of jobs. Its operations will be consolidated at the Human Resources Service Centers in Silverdale, Wash., or North Island Naval Air Station or Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.

Many of the proposed changes are occurring because the Pentagon is centralizing many of its operations from individual states to regions.

It will be up to the BRAC commission to determine whether to amend the recommendations made by the Pentagon yesterday. The commission begins hearings in Washington, D.C., Monday. It has until Sept. 8 to forward its recommendations to President Bush, who can only accept or reject this list in its entirety.

Besides Ford Island finance center, the next-biggest projected job losses will be at Hickam Air Force Base. There, the Pentagon projects 152 civilian vacancies created by the relocation of a supply squadron and the consolidation of its repair, maintenance and similar services with a new proposed joint operation shared by the Navy at Pearl Harbor.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka noted that under this year's BRAC process, Hawaii will be gaining assets.

He was referring to the Pentagon recommendation to close Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine and send more work and jobs to the Navy's three other shipyards. That means the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard -- the state's largest industrial employer -- will grow by 111 civilian workers.

Akaka said he supports "this round of base closures and realignments because I believe it is important to examine our military footprint to maximize efficiencies and to enhance our nation's capabilities to confront the challenges and potential threats that we may face in the future."

Other Pentagon recommendations involve closing the Army Reserve Center in Hilo and consolidating the training of its 118 reservists to the new, $80 million Hawaii Army National Guard complex planned for the Keaukaha Military Reservation near Hilo Airport.

State lawmakers set aside $4.4 million this year to expand Keaukaha to include various maintenance and storage facilities, an expanded post exchange and commissary, and space for the state Office of Veterans Services.

The Hawaii Army National Guard will close its armories at Keaau and Honokaa and move members of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry to the new Keaukaha headquarters. The Army Reserve will also relocate members of Delta Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry and its 411th Engineer Battalion from its current Hilo armory near the University of Hawaii-Hilo campus to Keaukaha.


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