Maui News

County Council opposes Air Force telescope project atop Haleakalā

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Milky Way galaxy as seen from the Faulkes Telescope North on Haleakalā. Maui County Council members unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday opposed to Air Force plans to build and operate up to seven telescopes atop the mountain. PC: University of Hawaiʻi.

After hearing testimony overwhelmingly opposed to Air Force plans to build and operate up to seven telescopes atop Haleakalā, Maui County Council members unanimously supported a resolution opposing construction of the proposed Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site Small Telescope Advanced Research facility.

An administrative review for an environmental impact statement has been ongoing since April 23. The public comment period closes Friday, June 7. The Council’s resolution will be part of the record of public comments.

Testifiers told council members Wednesday that the Air Force project, also known as AMOS STAR, would desecrate Haleakalā, a sacred place or wahi kapu; damage the environment atop the mountain; and contribute to the historic and ongoing militarization of the Pacific.

Maui resident Tiare Lawrence supported the proposed resolution and referred to a May 17, 2024, New York Times article reporting that, because of rapid advances by China and Russia, the United States is building an extensive capacity to fight battles in space.

“So, when they come to you, and they say, ‘Oh, we’re, you know, doing science or collecting data… When I read this, I see space wars. I see the future of space wars coming to Hawaiʻi,” she said.


Lawrence also recalled the Jan. 13, 2018, false inbound ballistic missile alert that threw many people in Hawaiʻi into a panic. “The reason why we even have a missile alert in Hawaiʻi; they don’t have a missile alert in Wisconsin and all those corn-fed states… But in Hawaiʻi we have missile alerts because we have five large military bases in Hawaiʻi in the middle of the Pacific. We are a prime target for war.”

The military’s adverse impacts in Hawaiʻi include environmental degradation and desecration of places like Mākua Valley on Oʻahu’s Waiʻanae coast, Pōhakuloa on Hawaiʻi Island and the poisoning of drinking water at Red Hill on Oʻahu, she said.

While proponents argue that the telescope project brings jobs and economic benefits, “jobs are not worth putting our kids and their kids at risk,” Lawrence said.

Pāʻia resident Francine Aarona read from her statement to Air Force officials. She told them the US military has historically used the Hawaiian Islands “as a target” with bases at Pearl Harbor, Hickam and Barber’s Point.

“You have used our lands to house your personnel and families as our residents suffer with a high cost of living,” she said. “I guess the saying is true: ‘Priced out of paradise.’ Enough!”


“You continue to abuse our lifestyle and sacred land,” Aarona said. “You continue to rob us of our heritage instilled in us by our kupuna. Haleakalā is a wahi kapu, or ‘sacred place,’ indicating limited human presence to be approached with reverence conducted in a ceremonial, respectful, caring, loving manner. This sacred place is deemed appropriate only for those who bear kuleana. Kuleana is a privilege, one not taken for granted or lightly. It has a profound responsibility to and for Haleakalā.”

In addition to opposing construction of the facility, the Council resolution introduced by Council Member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez includes a finding that the AMOS STAR’s effects would be significant “given the project’s demonstrated adverse impacts on cultural resources and its exceedance of the carrying capacity of Haleakalā’s summit.”

The resolution also urges the Department of the Air Force to “respect the unified and collective voice of community members who testified to cease all action in the development of the proposed AMOS STAR facility.”

Fernandez said the resolution honors residents who oppose the construction of the telescopes and puts the County Council on record in taking a position, as a body, against the project. She said it also gives “the Air Force the opportunity to save taxpayer dollars by stopping the process here and now.”

The resolution comes after a US Space Force presentation Monday to the County Council from a representative of US Space Force on plans to erect seven telescopes atop Haleakalā and the ongoing cleanup of a 700-gallon diesel spill on the mountain in early 2023.


Rawlins-Fernandez said the telescope project is not necessary. “Not only is it not a matter of national security; technology exists that can be installed at lower elevations to achieve the same purpose, which would not be so intrusive and could be managed by civilians employed by private companies,” she said.

In public testimony, “we heard the request of indigenous people to be humanized, to not commit genocide,” she said. “The culture and spirituality of kānaka maoli cannot only be invited and revered when it’s convenient or ornamental. It must be respected when the recommendation is to not move forward on a proposed project.”

Rawlins-Fernandez said it’s racism “when a system values one group’s religious beliefs, but actively desecrates another group’s beliefs.”

She told fellow council members she opposes the expansion of the military industrial complex in Maui County. “Once the military takes possession of land, it is not returned,” she said. “We see that on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island, Guam, Okinawa and the list goes on and on and on.”

The resolution calls upon the National Park Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources to reject any permits for AMOS STAR.

The proposed facility would consist of up to seven telescopes operated remotely in enclosed domes that would be constructed on a developed site adjacent to the Haleakalā Observatory and the 15th Space Surveillance Squadron Maui Space Surveillance Complex. 

According to the Air Force, the purpose of the telescope project is to provide “dedicated satellite tracking and communication capability to allow the characterization, cataloging and tracking of objects in space and to enable advanced research that expands the Department of the Air Force’s understanding of objects in the Pacific Theater.”

Also, it says the Air Force needs to expand the capabilities of Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site for “space domain awareness.”

“To expand this capability, additional telescopes need to be located at a site where there are favorable viewing conditions for observing objects in space in the Pacific Theater,” the Air Force says. “Additionally, the 15 SPSS must be able to readily provide operational control and support to the additional telescopes.”

The facility would be in addition to the six academic and four space-surveillance telescopes that are already situated on Haleakalā.

Public comments may be submitted using the comment tool on the project website at, or via email to The deadline for submissions is June 7.

Brian Perry
Brian Perry worked as a staff writer and editor at The Maui News from 1990 to 2018. Before that, he was a reporter at the Pacific Daily News in Agana, Guam. From 2019 to 2022, he was director of communications in the Office of the Mayor.
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