Role of Haleakala complex in a war with Iraq uncertain

The Maui News
February 23, 2003

PUKALANI While Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey McCann gave an update on the activities at the Air Force facilities at Haleakala, he couldn't shed much light on a topic on the minds of some Mauians: Will the Maui Space Surveillance System have any role in a war with Iraq?

"We just don't know," said McCann during a program sponsored by The Friends of Haleakala National Park on Friday night. "We'll do what's asked of us by the Air Force or the Department of Defense. We have normal communications with them (defense officials) every day, and we'll react if we need to react."

McCann said that might involve Haleakala personnel being deployed elsewhere.

The Air Force operation at Haleakala has not been overly impacted by the Bush administration's decision to heighten the level of possible terror attack from yellow to orange, he said.

"We're just more and more diligent about what we're doing," said McCann, adding that he couldn't be specific. "We're definitely informed about what's going on."

McCann, commander of the space surveillance system for just seven months, talked about his facility's part in tracking satellites that serve numerous functions, both military and other. Because of work at Haleakala, said McCann, people can use pagers, cell phones and the global positioning system.

Native Hawaiian leader Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. criticized the Air Force for continually failing to include the host culture in its plans. Maxwell still harbors resentment over the construction of the observatory housing the Advanced Electro-Optical System, a 3.67-meter telescope used for tracking objects in space. The observatory was designed with a reflective surface with a shape that has been compared to a giant pressure cooker. During preliminary phases of construction, officials told Maxwell and others that the finished product would not be visible when completed.

After the meeting, McCann said the Air Force has not abandoned the possibilities of softening the appearance of the structure to fit in better with the surroundings.

"We've done studies to look at the different options," he said. "There's lots of aspects to it, perhaps if we made it a different color.

"We know it's an issue."