Thursday, July 21, 2005

BRAC - Does Hope Still Exist?

It's been a while since we've talked about the ongoing BRAC process, mainly because I've been convinced that the various efforts being made by the state will have no effect whatsoever. However, a few recent developments have led me to believe that there may be a few shreds of hope left to cling to after all. Here's what we've got:

Worries about "abandoning" the Northeast

BRAC chairman Anthony Principi has expressed concern that the military is virtually abandoning the Northeast:

"I remain very concerned with the recommendations to close nearly all the military facilities in the Northeast, New England in particular," Anthony Principi, chairman of the independent Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, said at a hearing Tuesday.

Principi listed several Northeastern facilities the Pentagon has recommended for closure, including the Groton submarine base. He said he wanted his fellow commissioners to consider his concern.

Another commissioner, retired Gen. Lloyd "Fig" Newton, the only BRAC commission member from New England, said, "Others of us feel the same way." (Scott)

Very encouraging. I'm glad it occurred to someone that removing so many military facilities from the most densely populated part of the country is a bad idea. Whether his concern will lead to the striking of the Groton base from the list is still unclear.

Cheaper to Keep Subs Here

The most powerful argument used in 1993, when the Pentagon first wanted to close the base, was that the cost of closure and removal of the submarines was far higher than the Navy had estimated. Well, if it worked then, why not now?

When it comes to the proposed closure of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, are the U.S. Navy and the state Department of Environmental Protection really looking at the same 700-acre site?

There is a $133 million difference between what the two agencies say it would cost to properly address decades of environmental ravages from pollutants such as lead, diesel oil and PCBs. (Tantraphol)

The Connecticut figure is far higher, of course. Another interesting money-related argument is that it would actually be cheaper, base boosters say, to move submarines from Norfolk to Groton:

The team fighting to save the Naval Submarine Base in Groton has submitted a 300-page report to the federal base closure commission that estimates the Navy could save as much as $230 million over the next 20 years if it moves 11 submarines from Norfolk, Va., to Connecticut. (Hamilton)

Again, I'm not sure how convincing that argument will be, but it's a very interesting new wrinkle.

At this point it's hard to know what to expect, but the fact that solid arguments tied to cost are being made and the BRAC chairman seems sympathetic are positive signs. We should permit ourselves, perhaps, a small sliver of hope.

Sources
Tantraphol, Roselyn. "Sub Base Cleanup Figures At Odds." Hartford Courant 21 July, 2005.

Scott, Katherine Hugh. "Principi: Region may lose too much." Norwich Bulletin 20 July, 2005.

Hamilton, Robert. "Officials Have Doubts About Plan To Close Groton Base." New London Day 20 July, 2005.

3 comments:

Great Santini said...

Anthony Principi was my company officer when I was at Navy OCS in Newport. If I'm not mistaken, he's a Holy Cross NROTC grad. He's got some roots here in New England and he's seeing the military radically reduce its presence here. That's about the only thing the Sub Base has going for it. The Navy doesn't need two submarine bases on the East Coast, let alone three. Norfolk isn't going away because that's where SUBLANT is and Atlantic Fleet Command. Kings Bay is only about 15 - 20 years old. Its not going away. That puts the whammy on Groton.

Genghis Conn said...

Santini,

Huh. Didn't know that about Principi. No, I can't imagine they'd pull subs from Norfolk, and no one is talking about pulling them from Kings Bay that I know of. Hope is very slim, at best.

ctkeith said...

which Senator is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee?

Case and base closed.