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FAS Intelligence Resource Program

Regional SIGINT Operations Center Kunia

The Kunia Regional Security Operations Center (RSOC) is an element of the United States Cryptologic System staffed by personnel from each branch of the military along with Department of Defense civilians. The installation lies approximately 15 miles west of the city of Honolulu and ten miles south of the world famous North Shore of Oahu.

Naval Security Group Activity provides cryptologic personnel, information and communications to support Pacific Theater and National warfare requirements; provide host support services to the Kunia Regional Signals Intelligence Operations Center; and provides Pacific Theater engineering installation services.

Construction on the underground tunnel complex began in 1942, after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor forced the military to build facilities less vulnerable to the enemy. The fear of a repeat-attack prompted the Army and Navy to build these underground facilities for vital defense and storage installations.

A bomb-proof underground aircraft assembly plant was planned by the military. Called "The Hole" in the 40's, construction on the 23 million dollar facility began in 1942 and was completed in late 1944. The facility is not a true tunnel, but a free-standing three-story structure that was later covered with earth.

The facility was naturally constructed as an open bay area, without interior cement blocks. The outer walls are composed of reinforced concrete and dirt. It is approximately 250,000 square feet in overall size, with 30,000 square feet used for power generation and air conditioning. The remaining 220,000 square feet were available for assembly of folded winged aircraft.

There is no historical evidence to suggest the field station was ever used for aircraft assembly, but the facility did prove to be ideal for the reproduction of charts and maps. During the last stages of the World War II, the 30th Base Engineering Battalion used the tunnel for topographic work involving Japanese held islands.

These first "Kunians" were shift workers, working three, eight-hour shifts, in the involved business of map making. They also labored at duplicating aerial photographic negatives and producing contact prints which were later made into photographic mosaics.

The men of the 30th produced a staggering number of maps with commendable promptness and efficiency. In one month, more than 2,700,000 maps were printed and close to 11 million press impressions were recorded. One World War II soldier described the tunnel as "the great underground cavern". The soldier said the tunnel was "equipped with every modern facility and the three floors of the huge bombproof structure were found to be ideal for our purpose".

Huge air conditioning and ventilating systems ensured a constant flow of fresh air drawn from the open countryside. Some idea of the size of the building may be gained from the fact that to light the facility, it took almost 5,000 forty-inch fluorescent tubes for the job, enough to keep one man busy for most of the time changing those that burnt out.

Two elevators serviced the field station -- one capable of accommodating four 2 1/2-ton trucks or "an average size four-room cottage". For passenger service, another elevator was provided with a carrying capacity of 20 persons. At the end of W.W.II, the facility was turned over to the Air Force. The facility was kept in a reserve status until 1953, at which time the Navy assumed control and used it for ammunition and torpedo storage.

According to an article published in the Honolulu Star Bulletin, the Navy announced on June 28, 1953, it would convert the bunker into a secret facility. A local construction team was awarded the contract for $1.7 million to revamp the facilities.

When the initial renovations were completed in the early 1960s, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Forces, used the complex as a command center. In 1966, the facility was hardened against chemical, biological and radiological attacks. In 1976, the Fleet operations center was moved to another location and the tunnel was turned over to the General Services Agency for disposition. Among other suggestions, the GSA recommended the underground facility be used for a laundry plant or hospital. The GSA also received recommendations to close the facility or "mothball" the tunnel for an indefinite time.

In January 1980, Congress approved project funding to begin the activation of Field Station Kunia under U.S. Army control. Operations began later that year. The soldiers who worked in and supported the field station were housed in barracks on Wheeler Army Air Field, pending approval of funds and construction of billets on Schofield Barracks. Construction of the modern air-conditioned barracks and dining facility was completed in 1986. By April it was occupied by the soldiers and administrative offices of the two battalions. In order to reflect the change to a more "joint" mission, Field Station Kunia was re-designated the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center (KRSOC) in August 1993.

The field station changed hands once again in October 1995, when possession of the tunnel was again handed over to the Navy. Although it is still referred to as the KRSOC, it is in the hands of the Naval Security Group Activity, Kunia.

Direct cryptologic support provided by regional assets continues to be key to intelligence production in the Pacific. While required renovations have continued throughout the last 20 years, the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center (RSOC) is an aging facility, built in 1945 and renovated for cryptologic operations in 1979. In the future, a new facility will be required to sustain the level of support needed in PACOM. JICPAC’s physical facility is not as distressed as the Kunia RSOC; rather, operational efficiency suffers because almost 100 JICPAC personnel must work in a revamped hangar at Hickam AFB, due to space limitations in the main building near Pearl Harbor. These split-based operations cost well over $500 thousand per year for the separate facility, as well as lost time and efficiency. JICPAC should be in one building, collocated with a new RSOC building. This would improve intelligence exchange, analytical dialogue, and efficiencies in infrastructure. Also important is the force protection dimension for the current JICPAC building: it is located in a vulnerable location near a major highway.

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Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2000 7:12:08 AM