The second highest leader in the U.S. Senate is in Hawaii this week touring military facilities and bases. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says Hawaii is at the center of the country’s plan to rebalance its military.
His visit included a tour of U.S. Pacific Command, also known as PACOM.
“If you look at the territory and the oceans involved in the responsibilities of PACOM, it takes your breath away,” Durbin said. “Over half of the world’s population and this huge expanse of trying to cover this area and best interest of the security of the United States.”
Durbin also visited Wheeler Army Airfield, the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the F-22 Complex at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where he spoke with the pilots of the F-22 Raptor to learn about the capabilities the aircraft provides in support of defense in the Asia Pacific.
“In terms of our military preparedness and readiness, we want that sailor, that soldier, that airman, that marine, that member of the Coast Guard to come home safely. They better be prepared,” he said.
Durbin says the U.S. military faces two challenges: a lean budget and the need to rebalance. With U.S. forces drawing down in Afghanistan, there is strong effort to rebalanced to the Asia-Pacific region.
“Hawaii is the anchor, the center of this Pacific rebalance, and it’s important that as we move forward, we make sure the investment continues,” Durbin said.
It’s an investment that benefits Hawaii. “The importance of Hawaii strategically for national security and national defense as well as he understands economically how important the military presence is,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “I think his takeaway is he’s going to keep on supporting Hawaii and the military in Hawaii.”
And it’s one an old friend in the senate has supported for many years.
“I feel I owe it not only America for its safety but I owe it to the memory of that great senator Daniel Inouye,” Durbin said.