Living on Maui, with its mostly undeveloped landscape and near complete lack of military facilities, makes it easy to think that America’s global war on terrorists, dictators and all-around bad dudes is something far away. Not according to the Rand Corporation’s new study “How Much Does Military Spending Add to Hawaii’s Economy?” which came out in early June. In fact, while reading (okay, perusing) the 52-page report, I learned five funny things about Hawaii’s growing addiction to the money that surrounds our nation’s all-but-unstoppable legions and war machines:
1. There are currently more than 75,000 service members and DOD personnel in the state today. Of those, nearly two-thirds (48,000) are active duty, 18,000 are civilians and the rest are National Guard or reserves. This is of course down from the stratospheric number of service members stationed here back in the From Here to Eternity days, but is considerably more than the 56,000 personnel stationed here in 1999.
2. The money spent by those service members and on military contracts for Hawaii companies in the state is huge. “We estimated annual average defense expenditures, after adjustments, of $6.527 billion in FY 2007–2009 (2009 dollars) and found that they accounted for economy wide output of $12.220 billion, or 18.4 percent of Hawaii’s 2009 GDP, along with $3.506 billion in earnings and 101,533 jobs,” stated the report.
3. This is more money than that spent by tourists visiting the state in 2009, says a June 1 Honolulu Civil Beat story. And it’s not that close, either: according to state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism figures cited in the story, visitors spent just $10 billion in the state in 2009. Who knew that eternal summers, swaying palms and $8 Mai Tais were better for national security than vacations?
4. Defense Department contracts with Hawaii firms have doubled since the mid-1990s, according to the Rand report. In 1995, military contracts were $910 million. By 2009, that number stood at nearly $2.4 billion. Of course, this number wasn’t equally spread out across the state. “Hawaii-based procurement varied across counties, ranging from $10 million and $27 million in Maui and Hawaii counties, respectively, to $106 million in Kauai and $2.162 billion in Honolulu,” stated the report. “Honolulu County accounted for 94 percent of total procurement.”
5. Military pay is way better than civilian pay. “Active-duty service members and DoD civilian employees earned more on average than Hawaii’s full-time workforce,” stated the Rand report. “In 2007–2009, median earnings for active-duty personnel were $74,900, and those for DoD civilians were $69,800 (2009 dollars). The median earnings of full-time workers in Hawaii were $40,000 (ages 17 and older) or $37,400 (ages 17 to 50).” With numbers like that, you’d think the 1893 coup against Queen Liliuokalani only happened last year.