Pearl’s fate before panel

Commissioners will hear testimony
today on additions to the base
closure hit list

WASHINGTON » The nine-member federal independent base closure commission will begin its second round of work today, starting with a review of its proposals that include shuttering or realigning the 97-year-old Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

On Assignment

Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg K. Kakesako is in Washington, D.C., to cover the BRAC public hearing.

It is the first time in the 2-decade-old Base Realignment and Closure process that Pearl Harbor has come under attack, said Hawaii's senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. He, Gov. Linda Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann plan to meet privately with commissioners late today at a U.S. Senate office building to reiterate Pearl Harbor's strategic mid-Pacific location.

After eight weeks and 16 regional hearings on the Pentagon's May 13 decision to close or realign 837 military installations, BRAC commissioners will hear testimony today on its July 1 proposal to possibly add 12 installations, including Pearl Harbor, to the Pentagon's hit list.

In Honolulu, Pearl Harbor labor leader Ben Toyama said the Pentagon's explanation Friday to Anthony Principi, chairman of the nine-member BRAC commission, "more accurately" portrays the wide-ranging repair work done at the shipyard, from submarines to aircraft carriers.

"Loss of this critical asset will have an adverse impact on operational war-fighting capability, training and readiness," said acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

Toyama added that Hawaii's congressional delegation has been studying the issue and is providing Pearl Harbor labor unions with critical information.

"They are well briefed on this," Toyama said.

Pearl Harbor is one of four Navy shipyards. The others are Portsmouth in New Hampshire and Maine, Norfolk in Virginia and Bremerton in Washington state.

For the past eight weeks, BRAC commissioners have been touring the mainland, holding hearings at 80 sites. The panel still has five more weeks of work.

The commission added 12 bases in 1993 and 36 in 1995 to the Pentagon's closure recommendations. Seven of the nine commissioners would have to vote in favor of placing Pearl Harbor on the endangered base list. If Pearl Harbor is added, BRAC will send two of its panel members to Hawaii to take testimony.

By July 25, BRAC has to publish in the Federal Register its proposed additions to the Pentagon list before submitting them to President Bush on Sept. 8.

A final round of BRAC deliberations is set for the week of Aug. 22. With the approval of five out of nine members, the commission could eliminate any of the Pentagon's recommendations.

Pearl Harbor, billed as the state's largest industrial employer, has 4,297 civilian and 778 military workers who collectively earn $385 million a year. The Chamber Commerce of Hawaii estimates that the ripple effect from losing the shipyard would add up to a drop of 2.2 percent in the state's labor force, and an annual economic loss of $1.3 billion.

Base Closure and Realignment Commission

Base realignment commissioners

The nine members of the panel include:

» Anthony Principi, chairman and former secretary of veterans affairs.

» Retired Army Gen. James Hill, former commander of U.S. Southern Command and 40th commander of the 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning Division.

» Retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., former NATO supreme allied commander, Atlantic. He once headed U.S. Joint Forces Command and was the commanding officer of the Navy salvage ship USS Conserver in Pearl Harbor.

» Former Nevada Rep. James Bilbray, then a member of the House committees on foreign affairs, armed services and intelligence.

» Philip Coyle of California, a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information. He has served as an assistant secretary of defense and director of operational test and evaluation.

» Former Utah Rep. James Hansen, who served on the House Armed Services Committee. He served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955.

» Retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd "Fig" Newton, who served in uniform for 34 years and was former commander of the Air Education and Training Command.

» Samuel Knox Skinner, who served as President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff and as secretary of transportation.

» Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Sue Ellen Turner of Texas, a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She served for 30 years, most recently as the director of nursing services in the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General.

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