By the NHCC Board of Directors
Can Native Hawaiian Businesses be Department of Defense (DoD) contractors? The answer is yes. The DoD in Hawaiʻi is the second, some would argue the first, largest contributor to the state economy.
It might surprise many Native Hawaiians to know that the United States Army has the only major endemic seed repository in the islands.
The Army is really a big player in Hawaiʻi for the conservation of natural resources, in particular endemic plants. You can read about this in the recent October 13 edition of Hawaiʻi Business Magazine. Additionally, the Army Natural Resources Program built the world’s first snail-proof fence in the Waiʻanae Mountains to protect kāhuli (native snails) from predatory rosy wolf snails, rats and chameleons.
Another interesting fact is the chapel donated by Queen Liliʻuokalani to Schofield Barracks. In 1913, Queen Liliʻuokalani raised money for the construction of this Soldiers’ Chapel. The first church on the post, it housed a bell donated by the 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1912.
Think about this for a moment. Our Queen shared her spirit and generosity with the very people who overthrew her government. What does this say about Native Hawaiians? We are a people dedicated to aloha and forgiveness.
As the native people of this land, it is our right to participate in the defense economy. Hawaiʻi military bases and military training areas are built on former Native Hawaiian lands. Furthermore, Hawaiʻi’s strategic location in the Pacific for the defense of the U.S. continent was a primary objective in the march to annexation and statehood. It seems only proper that Native Hawaiians should participate in the economic benefits of these activities.
Here are a few facts on Native Hawaiian-owned businesses working on DoD contracts in FY20, which is available from public sources such as USAspending.gov.
- $209 million obligated contract revenue to Native Hawaiian-owned businesses located nationwide
- $159 million obligated contract revenue to Native Hawaiian-owned business located in Hawaiʻi
- $2.4 billion total obligated revenue statewide (all contractors)
Put another way, during FY20, of the $2.4 billion in DoD contract dollars, just 6.6% was obligated to locally owned Native Hawaiian businesses, yet we make up 20-25% of the entire state population.
As the DoD rolls out major projects and new initiatives in Hawaiʻi, such as Training Lands Retention, Homeland Defense Radar, and Marine Corps Modernization, our Native Hawaiian community should insist on intensive analyses of their economic impact on Hawaiʻi’s economy and especially the Native Hawaiian business community – including investments that promote future economic growth and diversification.
We, the Indigenous people of Hawaiʻi, must demand greater economic benefit from our relationship with the DoD. The DoD is necessary to our state and country. We live with their families and our children go to school with their children. Our ʻohana are members of the military services.
In return for continued Native Hawaiian support, we seek equivalent economic benefit for their use of our lands. We must insist they use Native Hawaiian-owned small businesses to accomplish national and worldwide missions.
The Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce works to mālama Native Hawaiians in business and commerce through leadership, relationships and connections to economic resources and opportunities. The NHCC is a 501(c)(6) trade organization whose members include individuals, businesses of all sizes and industries, and nonprofit organizations.
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