Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Military, Economic and Social Value

Commission Questions Navy About Sub Base

I'm really not sure if we should be encouraged by this or not. The Navy is very intent on closing the Groton base, but BRAC itself seems to have a lot of doubts. Here are some excerpts from yesterday:

The Navy

On the difficulty of the choice:

"It was a very difficult process for our department," Navy Secretary Gordon England said. "These bases listed are where men and woman in uniform are highly regarded by the communities they are located in."

"New London is a perfect example of the very difficult choices we had to make," said Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations. "There is a heritage in New London, a very personal relationship." (Hackett)

On why the choice was made:

"The real break point," Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Anne Rathmell Davis said, "was multifunctional bases. The others scored in the mid 60s compared to New London, which was about 50." (Hackett)

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But times have changed, Clark said. "A few years ago we had 100 attack submarines. The numbers are now in the 50s.

"In the future, it will be in the lower 40s. We've got too much structure. We've got to redirect resources," he said. (Lightman)

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The Navy is estimating it will cost $679 million to close the Groton facility, $230 million to make improvements at Kings Bay, resulting in an overall savings of $1.6 billion over 20 years. (Hackett)

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But there was plenty of discouraging information, too, perhaps nothing more than the presentation by Davis, the Navy's deputy secretary, who said that the sub base had come in 12th out of 16 bases in a ranking of overall military value.

Officials determined that “both Kings Bay and Norfolk had a significantly higher military value than New London did,” Davis said. (Mann)


The BRAC Commission

The Economic, Social and Structural Impact

The explanation of the cost came after a question from BRAC Chairman Anthony J. Principi, who said the commission will have to take into account not only the effect of base closures on communities –– clearly the focus for Connecticut, which would lose more jobs under the proposed closures than any other state in the nation –– but also the effect of job gains from closures and realignments elsewhere.

“One of the factors we have to consider is the ability of receiving institutions, both on the base and in the surrounding community, to support” new residents and installations, Principi said. (Mann)

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Principi had another thought, asking England whether the Navy had considered the impact not just on the New London community, but on the Kings Bay base and the surrounding Georgia area, as thousands of people would be relocated there. The recommendation calls for moving the submarines and repair facilities from the New London base to Kings Bay, Ga., and Norfolk, Va.

"I haven't been to Kings Bay in some time," said Principi, "but it seems they have limited infrastructure, at Kings Bay and in the county." (Lightman)

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“One of the factors we have to consider is the ability of receiving institutions, both on the base and in the surrounding community, to support” new residents and installations, Principi said. (Mann)

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Retired Army Gen. James T. Hill asked why Norfolk, already crowded and hardly in need of more work, was being considered as a site for the New London subs. (Lightman)

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Philip Coyle, a Clinton administration assistant defense secretary, questioned several cost savings estimates.

Panel member Coyle also lamented, "we've stirred up a lot of people who don't want to move to a new location." (Lightman)

On Strategic and Military Value

Commission Chairman Anthony Principi, former secretary of veterans affairs, looked almost sad. "From a strategic risk perspective, it makes sense?" he asked.

"Yes sir," Clark answered. (Lightman)

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Officials determined that “both Kings Bay and Norfolk had a significantly higher military value than New London did,” Davis said.

That prompted a question from retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, a Connecticut executive added to the commission at the last minute, in a move thought to be a coup for the state.

“Was it that drastic a difference?” Newton asked. “Were we close?” (Mann)

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"There's a lot of information we do not have available to us yet," Newton said. (Lightman)


The Others

On Cost Savings

But local leaders are questioning the Defense Department's estimates, particularly the $23.9 million for environmental cleanup of the Groton base.

"If you believe that, you're living in Disneyland," Sen. Christopher J. Dodd said.

"This is an issue that will be decided on military value," U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said. "I don't accept their figures of increased value at the other bases." (Hackett)

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“Obviously, we believe the answers that were given, both on military value and on the cost of closing and moving, are not right,” Lieberman said. (Mann)

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[Complaints] ranged from lowballing the cost of cleaning up decades' worth of pollution at the base, which would drastically affect how much the Navy will save by closing the base, Markowicz said, to the fact that the military may have to spend more than $200 million to accommodate the submarines and staff that would travel to the Kings Bay base under the Navy plan. (Mann)

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The most glaring admission was that the Navy will spend nearly $300 million to build new piers at Kings Bay to accommodate the subs being transferred there from Groton, as well major infrastructure needs on the base and neighboring community of St. Mary's to accommodate the influx of personnel.

"Spending $300 million seems to fly in the face of cost savings, doesn't it?" said U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, after the hearing. (Hackett)

On Military Value

The Connecticut congressional delegation and Markowicz saved their sharpest skepticism for the assertion that Groton's base is less valuable for military purposes, a position Markowicz called inexplicable and which left Simmons thumping out a rudimentary map on a hallway wall to demonstrate to a throng of reporters how much closer subs based in Connecticut would be to any possible military threat in Asia. (Mann)

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"How does Kings Bay (Ga.,), that doesn't have any fast attack submarines or a sub school, have a greater military value than Groton?" said John Markowicz, chairman of the Subase Realignment Coalition, the group battling to save the base from closure. (Hackett)

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“If there's excess structure,” Simmons said, “why are we investing in new structure?” (Mann)

On the Commission

"What I heard was a willingness to listen," said Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, after a 21/2-hour hearing on proposals that would affect the Navy. (Lightman)

So, after all that, what are our chances? I think we won't know for quite some time, but there do seem to be some problems with the Navy's argument that may at least keep the door open for the base.

Amidst all of this, Simmons is trying to save himself by co-sponsoring a measure that would put off the BRAC process for two more years, according to The Day. How utterly ridiculous. Let's get this done now, at least, so that families aren't left hanging for another two years.

Sources

Mann, Ted. "Navy: Sub Base's Military Value Low." New London Day 18 May 2005.

Lightman, David. "Navy Brass Grilled." Hartford Courant 18 May 2005.

Hackett, Ray. "Navy: Sub base falls short." Norwich Bulletin 18 May 2005.

3 comments:

Conn-Tiki said...

It looks as though our representatives are mounting a spriited defense; while it would be preferable to see, oh, I don't know, the NLDC doing such a thing (since preventing the military from ripping the economic heart out of the region would do a lot more good than whoring out Fort Trumbull to Pfizer and developers) as a standing committee matter, it is refreshing to see such spirited action.

OHenry said...

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