My name is Jack De Feo. I’m a resident of the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. Recently, the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) for Army Force Structure Realignment (which considers the possibility of a large reduction in military presence on Oʻahu) has been brought to my attention.
There are many wonderful things that could happen on this island should the proposed Army troop reductions at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter take place.
When I was growing up in the ‘50s, a blue collar working man could own his own home and support his family, while his wife stayed home and cared for the kids. When the cost of homes on Oʻahu hit $100,000 in the early 1970s, it became obvious that, to pay the mortgage, the wife would have to take on some work, unless the husband got a second job. Today, the average home on this island costs $700,000. Husbands have three jobs and wives have two, and they still can’t afford the mortgage.
If we bring down the cost of homes, we will bring down the cost of living, and maybe one day families will be able to afford homes again. Maybe husbands and wives will once again have the opportunity to raise their children while working only one job apiece. Huge troop reductions would go a long way toward this goal. With a surplus of homes, the prices would drop.
Rental properties would also be affected. Many of our people can no longer afford to rent and are becoming homeless. A reduction in troop force would empty out rentals, again, dropping prices and making them affordable for our people.
I also want to speak to traffic. Amazingly, our newspapers tell us again and again that, in laid-back Honolulu, our freeways are, on some days, the most congested in the United States! It currently takes one hour and twenty five minutes for me to travel 22 miles from downtown Honolulu to my home in Makaha during rush hour, and even longer by bus. If members of the Army were no longer factored in to our afternoon traffic, we could again approach something nearing normalcy in our transit times.
We have far exceeded our island’s carrying capacity for traffic. There is no room to build more freeways; our new rail will still leave us with a two hour travel time into the city; we need less congestion on our roads.
For us, the Army’s cuts would be a boon, lessening the impact on our resources, in particular, water. Besides traffic, we have also exceeded our island’s carrying capacity for natural water. When all of the homes that have been approved this year are built, we will run out of fresh water from our aquifers.
Our Board of Water Supply, in one published report, is planning to begin desalination by 2018. This is criminal. What this island needs is a drastic reduction in members of the Army to shock our “bought” city planners into realizing that the island has a limited carrying capacity.
Keeping the Army on Oʻahu is extremely expensive for the U.S. Government, the state government, the municipal government and the taxpayers of Hawaiʻi.
And yet, the majority of the 800,000+ residents of Oʻahu know nothing of the Army’s plans to drastically reduce forces by 2020. If they knew that this opportunity was here, and if they knew of the advantages to their lives that could come from it, every last one of them would be writing to ask that the federal government downsize the army on the island of Oʻahu to the fullest extent possible.
Please downsize the Army in Hawaiʻi. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.