Pentagon stacked deck against Groton base
 

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From: Waspscpo@aol.com [mailto:Waspscpo@aol.com]
Sent: Friday, July 08, 2005 3:23 AM
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Subject: Connecticut: Pentagon stacked deck against Groton base

 

http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/articles/2005/07/06/connecticut_officials_to_urge_brac_panel_to_keep_groton_base_open/

Connecticut: Pentagon stacked deck against Groton base

By Matt Apuzzo,
Associated Press Writer  
July 6, 2005
BOSTON, MA

Connecticut officials on Wednesday accused the Pentagon of predetermining which military bases it wanted to close, then crafting a process that ensured the submarine
base in Groton would make the list.

The theory that the Pentagon stacked the deck against the Connecticut base was part of the state's two-hour presentation before the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The hearing was designed to give officials from Connecticut and other New England states the chance to persuade the commission to take their military facilities off the closure list. Members of Connecticut's delegation delivered a point-by-point assault on a process they described as unfair and fundamentally flawed.

"We're not convinced it's fair to exclude certain bases from the process and that distinctly seems to be what has happened here," said U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., whose district includes the Groton base. Connecticut officials pointed to the base in Kings Bay, Ga., where the Pentagon wants to move many of Groton's attack submarines. John Markowicz, chairman of Connecticut's effort to save the base, accused the Pentagon of erecting a "protective do-not-close line" around Kings Bay and other bases by ignoring data favorable to Connecticut.

"Either through omission, through errors or through whatever label you want to put on it, we were not treated fairly," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said. Rell, three members of the state's congressional delegation, a retired submarine fleet commander and the president of submarine-maker Electric Boat all spoke in favor of keeping the base open. But Markowicz delivered the longest analytical criticism of the process.

Among the arguments he made before the commission Wednesday were:-- By giving bonus points to facilities capable of handling ballistic missile submarines, bases that can accept aircraft carriers and non-nuclear or "cold iron" bases, the Pentagon stacked the deck against Groton.-- The Pentagon discarded questions about special capabilities and unique features at the base, questions that would have benefited Groton, which has a submarine school and is located just upriver from the Electric Boat submarine shipyard.--

Questions about the proximity of the base to anti-air warfare practice ranges were irrelevant to submarine bases.-- The number of piers at Groton was miscalculated. The base can accommodate 20 subs side by side, rather than by "nesting" -- similar to parallel parking -- as would be necessary at Kings Bay or Norfolk, Va., where Groton's subs are scheduled to be sent."(Markowicz) really left the Pentagon's argument for closing Submarine Base New London in shambles," U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn, said after the hearing.

The state also argued that the uncertain future size of the nation's submarine fleet make it unwise to close the Groton base. The Pentagon expects today's fleet of 54 subs to drop to 30 to 40, one of its reasons for recommending the closure of the Groton base and the Naval shipyard in Kittery, Maine."The bottom line of all of this is, if we should close this very critical infrastructure, in this case New London, Connecticut -- and I feel bad that you are here today doing this -- you doom the United States' submarine force," said retired Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni Jr., former commander of the Pacific submarine force.

Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said the agency stands by its process. He said the Pentagon wasn't going to answer every state's criticism because the BRAC commissioners have the authority to make changes if they see fit.The BRAC commission must present its final recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8. Chairman Anthony J. Principi said Wednesday night that commissioners would analyze Connecticut's arguments about the sub force but were "absolutely" willing to make a decision that effectively capped the size of the fleet.

The Groton base provides more than 8,000 jobs and contributes billions of dollars to the state's economy. "This closure would take Connecticut a generation to recover from," said James Abromaitis, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development. Some BRAC commissioners seemed sympathetic to Connecticut's arguments.

Principi said the base at Norfolk, Va., is already crowded and wondered whether it was risky to consolidate many ships in one port. Commissioner Samuel K. Skinner suggested that Groton might be able to house the entire Atlantic fleet, with Norfolk serving as backup space if the fleet grows. Officials from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire also attended Wednesday's hearings to argue for their bases.

Hundreds of supporters of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, showed up wearing yellow shirts and delivered raucous applause during their hearing. About 150 Connecticut residents also attended the hearing, but their bus got stuck in traffic and they missed most of the Connecticut presentation.

2005 Associated Press.
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Contributed,
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(ret)