Boosting Maui's military-industrial complex
August 04, 2005
This paper gets a lot of press releases from U.S. Congressman Ed Case (D, 2nd District). Most are pretty routine and, frankly, somewhat dull—a couple recent
ones dealt with Case calling for more stringent "federal ag inspections" and his new bill that would add "Hawaii macadamia nuts to country-of-origin labeling," respectively. But on July 21, 2005, Case's office faxed over one release that definitely caught our eye.
"Congressman Ed Case today said the U.S. Department of Defense's Missle Defense Agency has awarded a $48 million contract to develop cutting-edge missile defense technology at Trex Enterprises locations in Lihue, Kauai and at the Maui Research and Technology Center in Kihei, Maui," stated the release.
By itself, the announcement of a firm winning a relatively tiny Defense Department contract ($48,594,922 to be exact) isn't exactly news. Trex, based in San Diego, California, has earned millions in DOD contracts for the last five years. But the release's next paragraph was different.
"This contract further demonstrates the growing value of Hawaii's high-tech industry and the important role it's continuing to play in strengthening the security of our country," the release quoted Case as saying.
Remember when Democrats—especially Hawai'i Democrats—used to be liberal? Used to say government was spending too much money on war and not enough on homeless people? Used to call missile defense an endless boondoggle and Cold War relic that will never work? Whatever happened to those guys?
Anyway, Trex Enterprises isn't like Boeing—the granddaddy of all defense contractors—but they make a few bucks now and then off the high-tech weapons our armed forces are increasingly addicted to. DOD contract announcements show that since 2000 the company has made more than $100 million doing work for all the armed services.
For instance, in 2002 the company got $6.2 million from the U.S. Navy for work on a "radio frequency shift to better suit the needs of the warfighting community." A year later, the U.S. Army was paying them $5 million for "advanced radio frequency technology." In 2004, Trex worked on a satellite-imaging program for the U.S. Air Force ($25 million) and optical sensor equipment for the Navy ($5.6 million).
Formed in 1978, the privately owned firm employs 150 people, who actually own two-thirds of the company. Trex has offices in four states, including our lovely Hawai'i. The company first came to Maui in 1991, when it began research and development at the Maui Space Suveillance Site atop Haleakala.
To great fanfare, on April 21, 2000, the company opened a million-dollar office in Kihei's Maui Research and Technology Center. No less a personage than longtime "liberal" U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D, Hawai'i) showed up on opening day.
"I hope that this manufacturing will further enhance the quality of life of the people," he said, according to the
account of the festivities published the next day.
Trex has worked hard to get such attention. So far, the company has donated $10,000 to the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC)—$5,000 in 2000 and another $5,000 two years later. In addition, corporate officers like CEO Kenneth Tang have donated more than $36,000 to various congressmen since 2001.
Hawai'i's elected representatives have done very well for themselves, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for
Responsive Politics. Senator Inouye has accepted $10,300 from Trex officers in the
years since he helped dedicate Trex's Kihei office. Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D, 1st District) has cashed $3,250 in checks from Trex employees. And Congressman Case, who first alerted us to the company's new $48.6 million DOD contract, took $1,000 from Trex CEO Tang on March 10, 2005.
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