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GOP Rep warns US Navy plan to relocate fuel from Hawaii could jeopardize operations in the Indo-Pacific


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U.S. lawmakers have sent a letter of warning to the U.S. Navy saying the country could be wholly unprepared for a possible conflict should the military follow through with a plan to move fuel from Hawaii to storage facilities across the Indo-Pacific.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House Select Committee on China, said in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro dated Jan. 17 that a plan to redistribute fuel from Hawaii's Red Hill underground bulk storage facility was a "strategic imperative," Reuters reported. He cautioned, however, that the Defense Department had yet to develop a long-term solution.

"It is unclear how exactly the Navy will replace and distribute the aggregate bulk fuel capacity of Red Hill," said Gallagher, R-Wis, noting that U.S. operations in the Pacific would "grind to a halt" without a logistics network to ship the oil then to ensure ease of access.

"The Navy appears to be short – by several dozen – ships that will be needed to transport and deliver fuel to our bases and forces operating across the Indo-Pacific," he continued. "We must address potential weaknesses in our logistical supply lines, while we still have the time to do so."

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In October 2023, the Pentagon revealed the Red Hill storage facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam suffered a leak that contaminated the water systems. It then began draining the 1940s-era facility, saying the fuel would be loaded by ship and transported to existing support sites. This process is expected to take several years.

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In Gallagher’s letter, the Republican lawmaker cited a 2016 Defense Department determination that it would need 86 tankers for moving such equipment. He requested that Del Toro explain to the committee whether the department had enough forward fuel storage facilities and would have access to refinery capacity for operations in the Indo-Pacific.

Gallagher also asked the secretary whether the Navy had identified secure locations to build replacement facilities for Red Hill, and whether it had plans to integrate facilities of allies and partners in redistributing fuel.

A Navy spokesperson affirmed the secretary would respond to the letter accordingly.

"As with all congressional correspondence, the Department of the Navy will respond, as appropriate. We have nothing additional to provide at this time," the spokesperson said, per Reuters.

U.S. military experts continue to warn that the U.S. is unprepared to respond to China’s hegemonic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, which include seizing territories, facilitating trade negotiations and managing trade routes, and expanding its operational control over disputed waters.

These experts have warned of gaps in U.S. defenses as China, which now has more naval vessels than the United States, continues to dramatically expand its military.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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