The Navy initially considered closing NSGA Hanza in the early 1980s.
Captain Donald L. Currie, the commanding officer from October 1983 to August 1985, has said that he ‘was ordered to Hanza to close it down,’ but that ‘shortly after my arrival, NSA decided to make a major investment in Hanza’s future, and instead of closing Hanza down, we were very busy expanding the mission.’ By 1993, NSGA Hanza had been converted to a ‘Remote Collection Facility,’ whereby it was operationally controlled by the Regional SIGINT Operational Center (RSOC) at Kunia, Hawaii, where all the processing and analysis was also undertaken. In the mid-1990s, it had 11 officers, approximately 250 enlisted personnel and four U.S. civilian personnel, as well as 32 Japanese Nationals.
However, the high profile site became a casualty of the rising discontent among the Okinawan people about the disproportionate US military presence on the island. More than half the US forces in Japan were based on Okinawa, and about 75 percent of the land occupied by US forces was on Okinawa. In November 1995, a US-Japan Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) was established to develop recommendations for the US and Japanese Governments concerning ways to realign, consolidate and reduce US facilities and areas on Okinawa, in order to reduce the burden on the people of Okinawa.
Hanza was particularly vulnerable to closure because of its peculiar land lease conditions. In 1976, the Japanese Government had arranged 20-year leases with numerous owners of small parcels of land that comprised the site; these expired on March 31, 1996. An anti-base activist, Chibana Shoichi, owned a 2540 square feet plot, or 0.05 percent of the station site, and refused to renew his lease. He said that he objected to the one-sided use of the station. Chibana was already famous (or infamous to the Japanese right) for burning the Hinomaru flag at the National Athletic Meet in 1987. His stand over the Hanza land was supported by the Yomitan Town Council and the Governor of Okinawa, Masahide Ota. The Japanese Government was revised the Special Land Use Law to force Chibana to accept continuation of the lease, for which he was paid 676 yen per day. While Chibana protested, security at the site was enhanced. An additional security fence was erected around the outer perimeter of the CDAA ground plane on April 1, 1996.
On 14 May, 1996 Chibana was allowed a 2-hour visit to his property. He said that he was finally able to hold my head up and go in through the front gates, and that he was very happy. He took his shoes off as he set foot on land that neither he nor his relatives had been allowed on for forty years. He was accompanied by about 200 supporters, who had to remain outside the new fence.
The SACO released an Interim Report on April 15, 1996, which stated that the Sobe Communications Site would be returned once a new site is constructed at Camp Hansen (Central Training Area) in the next five years. The SACO Final Report, released on December 12, 996, included the decision to relocate antenna facilities and associated support facilities [from the Sobe Communications Site] to Camp Hansen by the end of FY 2000, i.e., March 31, 2001.
The official Hanza decommissioning ceremony took place on September 10, 1997. It was attended by Rear Admiral Thomas F. Stevens, Commander of the NSG, who said that ‘NSGA Hanza has helped preserve many years of peace by providing timely support to Fleet and national consumers,’ and that NSGA Hanza’s ‘trademark’ was an ‘exceptional level of performance’. There were 52 personnel assigned, comprised of 46 US military personnel and six Japanese Nationals, at that time.
A small crew of about 10 Navy personnel stayed behind to complete transition of the facility to civilian control under contract by the United States Department of Defense.
The Navy personnel departed on June 1, 1998. The Department of Defense civilians at the site were designated Defense Communications Detachment Okinawa (DCDO). The initial contract to maintain the station was awarded to Lockheed Martin Corporation, which came in and took over in 1997; the station was officially turned over to the company on 1 June 1998. Honeywell Technology was awarded the contract in 2002. A crew of less than 15 people maintained the station in September 2003. By that time, according to one of the maintenance technicians, the Operations building was slowly falling apart and the majority of the building was empty. The CDAA, which had dominated the local landscape for 45 years, was demolished in May 2007.
Source: Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, 23 December 2015