[ OUR OPINION ]
maintains Asian trust
THE Pentagon's revamping of its command structure to deal with terrorism on American soil will leave the Pacific Command largely intact. Navy and Marine units in Alaska and on the West Coast will continue saluting toward Hawaii following complaints by Senator Inouye and retiring Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of Pacific Forces, about an earlier version of the restructure. Trust throughout Asia of the command's attention is vital to its effectiveness.
The Defense Department plans to overhaul the nation's military command structure.
Military presence in Hawaii was never threatened by the restructuring plans, but Inouye raised concerns that any reduction of the Pacific Command's scope could have sent a message to allies in Asia that the U.S. focus has shifted. Blair joined in warning that such a reduction could damage the relationships that units under his command have established with Asian allies.
The most important change, effective Oct. 1, is the creation of the Northern Command, assigned to coordinate responses to terrorist attacks on the mainland. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it will be responsible for defending the country from attacks by sea, air or land, and will support civil authorities.
Responsibilities since World War II have been assigned to five functional commands -- Joint Forces, Space, Strategic, Transportation and Special Operations -- and four regional ones -- European; Pacific; Central, with responsibilities for the Middle East; and Southern, responsible for the Western hemisphere. The Pacific command, based in Hawaii, is the largest, extending to 43 countries with more than 60 percent of the world's population.
The Northern Command will be responsible for defending the contiguous United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, parts of the Caribbean and waters of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans extending 500 miles from the mainland's shores. The Pacific Command will retain responsibility for security in Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Pacific. Thus, it will be important for the Pacific Command to work closely with the Northern Command on homeland security issues.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Navy Times in an interview that the U.S. Third Fleet in San Diego and associated Marine units on the West Coast "will continue to face Hawaii." Lt. Gen. George W. Casey, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the decision was made only two weeks before this week's announcement of the restructuring. Objections by Inouye and Blair about the possibility of those units' reassignment may have played a role in retaining the Pacific Command's integrity.
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Legislators off base
in raiding programs
THAT "no good deed goes unpunished" certainly applies to the state Legislature's proposal to seize funds from departments and programs that have been run efficiently enough to sustain themselves.
They are targeting funds from programs run well enough to be self-sustaining.
The prospect of an unbalanced budget is sending lawmakers desperate for cash riffling through the government's change purse. Loathe to raid the politically sensitive hurricane relief fund, they are considering taking between $120 million and $123 million from 54 special and revolving funds.
They are targeting, among others, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' compliance resolution fund, a deceptive label because it really is the agency's operating budget. The department does not receive appropriations from the state's general fund. It runs on what it collects in fees for licenses and permits from physicians, cosmetologists, barbers, contractors and a number of other professionals. It has not raised its fees since 1996 because increases would affect its clients, mainly small businesses. Instead, it has applied good management techniques, stepped up efficiency while advancing new services and maintained a cash reserve as a smart business practice. Legislators may take as much as $34 million of its estimated $51 million balance, which would cripple the department.
The Department of Agriculture may lose as much as $4.8 million from its loan reserves and revolving funds, which also are self-sufficient. The funds are needed because banks generally consider agriculture loans risky. Last year, the program proved effective enough to return $11.5 million to the general fund. Agriculture is one of the few growing segments of the state's economy; it makes no sense to foil efforts to help cultivate the industry.
Fashioning a budget when times are tough is an unenviable task. However, because lawmakers have yet to meet the primary challenge before them this year -- finding ways to stimulate the economy -- they can expect that their jobs won't get easier in the years to come. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul" is an unimaginative but applicable cliche to the legislative budget process, much like the lack of imagination the Legislature has thus far displayed.
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