Course change on Stryker unlikely despite environmental harm
A draft environmental review says Hawaii is the best location for a Stryker brigade.
SIGNIFICANT environmental consequences aren't enough for the Army to relocate a Stryker brigade it began to establish in Hawaii nearly seven years ago.
Despite findings that threatened and endangered species, air quality and natural habitats along with cultural resources would suffer, the Army has decided national security needs and the state's geographic advantages trump those concerns.
Barring further legal challenges, it appears the combat team's 4,105 soldiers and 1,000 vehicles -- including more than 320 eight-wheeled, 19-ton armored Strykers -- will be based permanently in the islands.
Hawaii's congressional delegation and military officials say they are certain harm will be mitigated. Residents will have to take them at their word since few have the wherewithal to make sure that happens. The Army would do well to allay fears and mistrust developed over the years in a state that has accommodated an overwhelming share of military operations.
A supplemental environmental study the Army conducted found that the Stryker would have significant effects in the islands. The second study was required by a federal court that found the Army violated the law when it did not adequately consider other sites for the brigade in the first go-round.
The supplemental review determined that the brigade would increase noise, soil erosion, habitat impairment, malignant weeds and hazardous wastes at all the sites, Hawaii, Alaska and Colorado, though the degree of environmental harm would be most substantial here.
However, in judging other factors -- housing shortages, training ranges, deployment schemes and the feasibility of stationing other types of combat units in Hawaii and costs -- the Army picked the islands.
The financial benefits have been persuasive and will remain so as the state's economy, particularly in construction, begins to soften. Almost $700 million in 28 construction projects are planned or in the works for the brigade on Oahu and Hawaii island. Local business also welcome spending by thousands of soldiers and their families.
Stryker opponents had argued that economic benefits would have come anyway since the Army needed to upgrade facilities and had planned to bring in one kind of unit or another, if not the Stryker brigade, and that the environmental trade-off was too great.
While an argument can be made that Hawaii's unique environment should be given greater consideration, its strategic location -- and the millions of dollars the Army has already spent for Stryker projects here -- makes a course reversal improbable.