East Hawaii News

Sen. Schatz Pushes Local Priorities in Defense Bill

June 12, 2015, 1:39 PM HST
* Updated June 12, 1:40 PM
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Defense appropriations were passed on Thursday by the Hawai’i State Appropriations Committee for the fiscal year 2016.

Senator Brian Schatz worked alongside members of the committee. As a member of the subcommittee, he worked to include funding for defense programs important to Hawai’i. Among the programs funded by the legislature are clean energy research, the Army’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program, environmental restoration on formerly used defense sites, the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative, and Maui Space Surveillance System.

Senator Schatz also secured language in the bill that included a provision protecting the Pacific Fleet’s operational and administrative control over United States Navy forces in Hawai’i. The bill would protect PACFLT from the potential of having ships reassigned without proper review. This would keep important Navy force structure in the state and protect DoD’s commitment to rebalance to the Asia Pacific.

“The funding for defense programs that the Appropriations Committee passed today is a key investment in our national security and is further indication of the important role Hawai’i plays in our defense strategy,” said Senator Schatz.  “Within the constraints of the sequester, a number of Hawai’i’s defense priorities were funded.  These are critical if we are going to have a successful strategy to rebalance to the Asia Pacific.  But ultimately, Congress will need to abandon the sequester in order to make all of the investments necessary.  I hope my colleagues will join me in a bipartisan effort to end the sequester in the weeks ahead as opposed to waiting until late this year.”

Senator Schatz played a role in securing the funding for clean energy research. A total of $75 million has been appropriated for the research but it was not an original part of the President’s budget. The research will allow the military to continue to assist Hawai’i in clean energy technology and implementation. The dividends will be paid to the state, economy, and national security.

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$222 million was secured for the Army’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program. The program funds the Department of Defense’s regional supercomputing centers, including Maui High’s Performance Computing Center. Senator Schatz, along with committee leaders, increased the funding by $45 million over the President’s budget.

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The critical environmental restoration program on formerly used defense sites will be appropriated $233 million. The program ensures that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can continue its efforts to identify and remove unexploded ordnances at former military sites across the state. It also ensures that military training and activities remain in balance with the local needs of Hawai’i. The appropriation is $30 million above the President’s budget and was secured by Senator Schatz.

Senator Schatz also secured $14.75 million of $75 million for DoD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative program. The program helps to promote conservation near military installations in Hawai’i.

$12.9 million was also appropriated for the Maui Space Surveillance System.

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The Committee also passed the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which funds critical programs including those that support oceans policy and weather monitoring, a number of law enforcement agencies and grant programs that are used in the state to ensure public safety, and critical research funding for universities across the country, including the University of Hawai’i.

Specifics of the bill include:

Maintaining funding for important ocean initiatives, like tsunami preparedness, Hawaiian sea turtle conservation, and the Heeia National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Providing funding for a pilot program at the Department of Justice to deploy and study the use of police cameras in community policing environments.

Funding the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research through both the National Science Foundation and NASA, which UH uses to build capacity for environmental science and technology research and support STEM education in Hawai’i.

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