Isle military bases
safe for now

Cost-cutting closures in 2005
likely will skip Hawaii, Inouye says

As Congress looks at shuttering more bases on the mainland, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye believes nothing will happen here.

Inouye, D-Hawaii, who ranks third in seniority in the 100-member Senate, told the Mililani Rotary Club this week that "Hawaii will not lose any bases, but rather increase its level of activities" if there is another round of base closures.

The Government Accounting Office estimates that it could have saved $16.7 billion last year closing bases that it said are not needed. The GAO report added that this year and every subsequent year, the department will save an additional $6.6 billion by keeping the bases closed.

To pare costs, Congress approved four rounds of base closures in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 during the administration of President Ronald Reagan. A total of 97 major bases closed, and Congress is now gearing up for a new round of base closings in 2005.

In 1993, Hawaii lost the more than 3,000-acre Barbers Point Naval Air Station, which has reverted back to state control. Many of the projects envisioned by planners for a raceway and industrial use have never materialized for the area. A large park parcel has never been deeded to the city, Gov. Linda Lingle said on Thursday.

The state is now talking with the Pentagon to return parts of Barbers Point for use by the more than 70 jet combat fighters and helicopters as part of an air wing needed to support a nuclear aircraft carrier.

Until July 1999, Barbers Point Naval Air Station was an active military field and a major staging area during every war beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In 1999 it was returned to state control with the exception of a golf course, a housing complex and a few other acres.

The last combat jets assigned to Barbers Point were A4E Skyhawks in 1992.


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