February 17, 2022

Senator Hirono Urges Secretary of Defense to Identify Non-Red Hill Options to Address Long-term INDOPACOM Strategic Fuel Reserve Needs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Department of Defense considers options for the long-term strategic fuel reserve needs of the Indo Pacific region, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense urging the Department to focus on options that do not rely on Red Hill, given the likelihood that the facility will be shutdown. The Department has directed the Director of Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation (CAPE) to stand up a Tiger Team to assess available options, and Senator Hirono asked the Secretary to personally brief her on the options developed by Tiger Team immediately following the completion of their analysis.

Additionally, Senator Hirono will push for language in the upcoming fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to support the State’s authority to shut down Red Hill. Therefore, Senator Hirono requested the briefing and the completed analysis by March 30 to ensure the NDAA includes necessary provisions to protect Hawaii’s water and our national security.

Last week, Senator Hirono released a statement where she reiterated that the State of Hawaii has the authority to shut down Red Hill through its permitting process—and that she will fully support the State’s decision. She also stated, “as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will work to include language in the upcoming must-pass NDAA to require DoD to comply with the State of Hawaii's decision and to preclude any funding for continued operation at Red Hill without a state permit. I will also work to include language to support the Department’s long term plan for fuel requirements in the Indo Pacific region.”

In the letter sent to Secretary Austin today, Senator Hirono wrote, “Given the likelihood of an eventual Red Hill shutdown, I urge this team to focus its attention on options that do not depend on Red Hill being operational. CAPE’s analysis is projected to be completed by the end of February 2022. As you will ultimately make the decision based on the analysis, I request that you brief me on the options developed by CAPE related to Red Hill immediately following the completion of their analysis and your decision.”

“Resolving the Red Hill crisis will take significant funding and direction from Congress. Therefore, it is imperative that we receive this completed analysis and your briefing by March 30, 2022 in order to ensure the upcoming fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act includes necessary provisions to protect Hawaii’s water and our national security,” she added.

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

February 17, 2022

The Honorable Secretary Lloyd Austin Secretary of Defense
1010 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1010

Dear Secretary Austin,

As the Red Hill water contamination crisis continues, I remain committed to ensuring all responsible parties adhere to existing regulatory processes so that the immediate water contamination crisis can be resolved and Department of Defense can execute a thoughtful and effective long-term plan for strategic fuel storage for the Pacific.

The Hawaii Department of Health has the power and authority to determine the future of Red Hill, including shutting it down, through its permitting process. Your Department has acknowledged this authority in your appeal to the Governor’s Emergency Order.

There are serious questions whether the Navy will be able to clearly demonstrate their ability to safely operate Red Hill and in so doing keep the community safe. It appears likely the Hawaii Department of Health will not issue a permit for the Navy to operate Red Hill, shutting it down.  I will support that decision. 

While the State of Hawaii proceeds with the permitting process, I will hold the Navy accountable to finalizing the defueling plan.  The Department of Defense must identify a long-term solution to support the strategic war reserve and the operational fuel needs of INDOPACOM.

Deputy Secretary Hicks has directed the Director of Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation (CAPE) to stand up a Tiger Team to identify options for the long-term fuel reserve needs of the Indo Pacific region, including shutting down Red Hill. Given the likelihood of an eventual Red Hill shutdown, I urge this team to focus its attention on options that do not depend on Red Hill being operational. CAPE’s analysis is projected to be completed by the end of February 2022. As you will ultimately make the decision based on the analysis, I request that you brief me on the options developed by CAPE related to Red Hill immediately following the completion of their analysis and your decision.

Resolving the Red Hill crisis will take significant funding and direction from Congress. Therefore, it is imperative that we receive this completed analysis and your briefing by March 30, 2022 in order to ensure the upcoming fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act includes necessary provisions to protect Hawaii’s water and our national security.

Sincerely,
Mazie K. Hirono
U.S. Senator

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