- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The Army said Thursday it will shrink the size of an Oahu-based unit and pull Stryker combat vehicles out of Hawaii as part of broader Army-wide cost-cutting plan.

The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks will become an infantry brigade combat team, U.S. Army Pacific said in a statement. This will reduce the number of soldiers based at Schofield Barracks by 1,200.

The reorganized combat team will be considered a “light” unit of soldiers traveling on foot instead of on tanks or other heavy vehicles.

The Army said it was studying sending the unit’s Stryker combat vehicles to an Army National Guard unit headquartered in Washington state. The Stryker is an eight-wheeled light-armored vehicle.

Overall, the military plans to cut 40,000 active duty soldiers, bringing the Army’s size down to 450,000. The Army’s civilian workforce would be cut by as many as 17,000 over the same period.

U.S. Army Pacific said the changes to the Schofield unit will improve training opportunities with partners and allies and increase readiness. Not having to move Stryker equipment with the unit will also reduce costs, it said.

“Light infantry units are more rapidly deployable and will provide the combatant commander additional rapid-response ground-force options,” the command said in a statement.

Hawaii business leaders welcomed the news, saying there had been potential for deeper cuts in the islands. The Army had studied the possibility of eliminating two Hawaii-based brigade combat teams and the headquarters for the 25th Infantry Division as part of the restructuring. This would have cut the number of soldiers in the islands by 16,000.

“All things considered, the reduction in personnel could have been more significant, and we are pleased with the outcome,” said David Carey, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii’s military affairs council. The chamber will continue to work with the military to maintain the current level of military personnel in the state, said Carey, who is also the CEO of the Outrigger Enterprises Group hotel and resort company.

Both of Hawaii’s U.S. senators welcomed the limited scope of the cuts.

Sen. Brian Schatz said he would continue to push for investments in Hawaii to implement the U.S. rebalance, or renewed policy focus, on the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are entering a challenging time, but also one that presents opportunities for Hawaii,” Schatz said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono said she would continue to fight automatic federal budget cuts that would lead to even more reductions in military spending.

“The importance of a strong military presence in Hawaii, to lead the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, cannot be stressed enough and is vital to protecting our nation’s interests,” Hirono said in a statement.

Al Frenzel, a retired Army colonel who has advocated reducing the Army’s presence in the islands, said removing the Stryker vehicles from Hawaii was a “no-brainer.”

“The Stryker vehicles should never have been positioned on Oahu; it was a very poor political decision with huge costs to taxpayers and Hawaii’s environment,” said Frenzel, the director for the Oahu Council for Army Downsizing.

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