Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story!
The Hawaii Defense Alliance has launched a new online job board to recruit local talent for the defense sector.
Hui o Hawaii is hosted at online portal ClimbHI.org and went live Sept. 1. It currently has listings for data analysts, communications systems specialists, satellite scientists, cyber security experts, Chinese and Russian linguists, economists and other specialists.
“Oftentimes what we’ve seen is when (defense industry employers) can’t find the talent, and it’s very nature-specific in nature, they have to bring that person in and they don’t stay long,” said Pono Chong, program manager for the Hawaii Defense Alliance.
The Pentagon considers the Pacific to be its top- priority theater of operations. Hawaii, which is home to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the headquarters of the Navy’s vast Pacific Fleet, is at the center of those operations. Hui o Hawaii has just over 100 listings for local defense jobs, but Pono said that number is projected to increase to as many as 800.
“This creates a pipeline for Hawaii’s businesses to meet the current and future job demand for people here in Hawaii,” he said.
Defense spending has long played a key role in Hawaii’s economy, generating as much as 7.7% of the state’s total GDP. Economists have described Hawaii’s economy as a “three-legged stool” propped up by tourism, construction and defense spending.
But when tourism dollars dried up in 2020 as a result of travel restrictions from the global COVID-19 pandemic, military spending was among the few consistent cash streams for Hawaii.
The Hawaii Defense Alliance was launched in 2021 with the help of state officials, based on an analysis of the defense sector by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism funded by a grant from the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation. Its aim is to bring together representatives from businesses and organizations that work closely with the military and are most invested in defense spending.
Hui o Hawaii was created through a partnership among the alliance, DBEDT, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s Military Affairs Council, the University of Hawaii and CyberHawaii.
“Part of the alliance’s long-term goal is to help create more jobs, innovation and diversification for our community, while identifying challenges to the local defense industrial base and offer solutions,” said John Green, defense industry specialist for DBEDT. “Our hope is to encourage Hawaii’s residents and those who have moved away for school or other opportunities to return home to live and work.”
But while defense dollars have been a lifeline for Hawaii’s economy amid the pandemic, relations between the military and Hawaii leaders have become increasingly strained after jet fuel from the Navy’s massive underground Red Hill fuel storage facility contaminated the water of local and military families that relied on the Navy water system.
The Honolulu Board of Water Supply shut off multiple wells indefinitely to contain the possible spread of petroleum. It has exacerbated water shortages as Hawaii wrestles with drought, affecting local businesses and planned construction projects. The Red Hill water crisis has led some community leaders to call for an economy less reliant on the military.
But proponents of netting more defense dollars for the state argue it can be used to make the economy more resilient by building a workforce of skilled technology and engineering experts and creating more capacity for civilian-sector jobs that want them.
“Especially in the technology area, for our resiliency working group, one of the components is focusing on dual-use technologies and activities where certain things could be commercialized for the private sector,” said Pono.
In particular, both local businesses and public officials have been pushing for stronger cyber security. Cyber crime has increasingly become a concern for business and government organizations alike, with several high- profile cyber attacks in Hawaii, including one on Honolulu’s bus system in December that severely disrupted TheBus and TheHandi-Van service.
New job board seeks workers for Hawaii’s defense industry