DEFENDING PEARL HARBOR SHIPYARD
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is the largest industrial employer in the state, with more than 4,200 civilian workers.
Fit to Fight
An isle delegation prepares
its appeal for the Pearl
In a rapid turnabout, local business, political and military leaders now plan to send a delegation to Los Angeles next week to appear before the federal base closure panel and make their first public case to keep the Pearl Harbor Naval shipyard open.
Jim Tollefson, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, said yesterday that Hawaii has been invited to participate in the western regional meeting of the Base Realignment and Closure commission, beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Westchester High School Auditorium in Los Angeles.
"We plan to make a very high-level presentation," Tollefson said.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said he has been in contact with the chamber's military affairs committee, whose voluntary members include retired Adms. Ron Hays, Thomas Fargo and R.J. "Zap" Zlatoper and Vice Adm. Richard Kihune.
Both Hays and Fargo have led the Pacific Command, and Fargo also served as chief of the Pacific Fleet. Zlatoper was commander of the Pacific Fleet from 1994 to 1996.
The committee also includes business leaders such as David Carey, president and chief executive officer of Outrigger Enterprises; Michael May, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Co.; and Robin Campaniano, president and chief executive of AIG Hawaii.
Tollefson said the group formed on Wednesday after the BRAC commission asked the Pentagon last Friday to justify its decision to recommend closing Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine while keeping the Pearl Harbor facility open.
"We've had three additional meetings to discuss an action plan, and we will come out in full force," he said.
Tollefson said discussions are under way as to who will make the presentation.
Besides the economic impact, Tollefson said the chamber will stick to the main selection criteria that will govern BRAC's final recommendations: military value of the endangered installation and what the base does to keep the military's force ready.
"We see Pearl Harbor as very important for current and future mission capabilities and in maintaining the operational readiness of the fleet in the Pacific," Tollefson said.
Next week's presentation will come four days before the BRAC commission holds a Washington, D.C., hearing where Pentagon officials will have to defend their decision not to recommend closing the Pearl Harbor shipyard. On the following day, July 19, the panel could vote to add the facility to its hit list. BRAC's recommendations will forwarded to Congress.
Fargo said the issue is not pitting Portsmouth against Pearl Harbor.
"We need a first-rate shipyard with nuclear capabilities right here in the central Pacific. That's the important piece -- not just a place to overhaul ships, but one that provides all types of repair services," he said.
Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, head of the Hawaii National Guard, rejected yesterday the criticism by Pearl Harbor labor leader Ben Toyama that state officials should have been more aggressive in lobbying for Hawaii's military.
"Until they showed their cards on the BRAC committee, in their fact-finding and investigation, I think we would be spending needless resources on the multitudes of probabilities in our state in what could have been added to the BRAC commissions," Lee said.
"Portsmouth is on the other end of the spectrum; they have to define what they have. This is their last stand in the Northeast."
More than 4,200 civilians work at the Pearl Harbor yard, which is considered the state's largest industrial employer. Shipyard workers represent a range of well-paid skilled occupations, including welders, electricians, machinists and engineers. The shipyard's payroll totals $385 million annually, and local goods purchases push annual direct spending to $500 million.
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report