DEFENDING PEARL HARBOR SHIPYARD
Inouye says shipyard
has backing of
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye says the Navy's senior leadership here and at the Pentagon realize and support the need to keep the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard open.
After addressing nearly 2,000 shipyard workers yesterday morning, Inouye said that the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is putting together a high-level committee to lead the fight to keep the 97-year-old installation open.
Inouye said he believes that he also has the support of Navy Secretary Gordon England.
The committee will not only focus on the strategic value of the military's only mid-Pacific shipyard repair facility, but also stress its economic value to Hawaii.
Inouye's half-hour talk with the workers follows last Friday's news that the federal Base Realignment and Closure committee asked Pentagon officials to defend their recommendation to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine and explain why they did not include the Pearl Harbor shipyard on a list of potential base closures.
Shipyard labor leader Ben Toyama, who heard Inouye speak, said he had hoped the Hawaii Democrat would announce the formation of a communitywide drive to save the shipyard.
"It was a general speech," Toyama said. "It was generic and guarded. It was nothing that we didn't already know."
Inouye made a special 15-hour visit because he wanted to meet with the shipyard's leadership and the civilian work force.
Before meeting with the workers, Inouye was briefed by Adm. Walter Doran, who is retiring as Pacific Fleet commander today, and Capt. Frank Camelio, head of the shipyard.
Inouye said he told the workers that the possibility the shipyard would be added to a base closure list is "a matter we should take very seriously. Don't take it for granted."
Inouye said, "If the Pacific was not the area of concern," the Pentagon would not be:
» Stationing a squadron of Air Force C-17 jet transports at Hickam Air Force Base.
» Spending more than $1 billion to convert a 25th Infantry Division unit to the Army's newest Stryker brigade.
» Allocating $152 million to build a new headquarters for the Pacific Command at Camp Smith.
» Considering the relocation of an aircraft carrier strike group to Pearl Harbor.
"It is because we know that this place (the Pacific) has the potential of being dangerous," Inouye added, "and if that is the case, this is an important part of the whole operation."
Anthony Principi, BRAC commission chairman, raised the issue of efficiency earlier when he noted that it took Pearl Harbor workers 26 months to overhaul the attack submarine USS Chicago, compared with the claim by Portsmouth that it could do the same work in nine months.
Inouye said Principi was wrong and that the overhaul actually took 22 months.
Although Principi might be suggesting that Portsmouth can do a better job, Inouye said, it is "like comparing apples to oranges."
"Portsmouth's primary work is depot maintenance type, and the forces there concentrate on that kind of work," he said.
Pearl Harbor does everything from emergency 24-hour ship repairs to long-term overhauls. It also has four dry docks and can work on an aircraft carrier, unlike Portsmouth.
"This is the only shipyard that does that, and the overall record is that it is the finest in the land," Inouye said.
It would take seven of the nine BRAC commissioners to add the Pearl Harbor shipyard to its hit list at a July 19 meeting in Washington, D.C.