Monday, July 6, 2009

ANOTHER APP Editorial..."Navy plan surrounded"

The APP editorial board's classification this morning of a "three-front war" overlooked an extremely important adversary to the Navy's plan to let civilians live at Earle - U.S. Senators Lautenberg and Menendez. Presumably they are lumped in with the first referenced contingent (i.e., Washington, D.C.), but it is especially important for NOPE to now have documented support from our U.S. Senators that validates at least a portion of our thesis - the financial impact - and the need for bipartisan political support.

The security impact, however, remains the root of NOPE's thesis that (post 9/11) building an unimpeded access road to Laurelwood housing is a ridiculously bad idea, and one that we would encourage our U.S. Senators and all other D.C. politicians not named Christopher Smith to address much more aggressively. As we have stressed for some time, at the same time that NWS Earle received more than $8 million to upgrade and fortify main gate security (i.e. spending money to keep intruders off the base, see middle column under "Earmark Declaration"), Navy policy makers suggest via its "Environmental Impact Statement - EIS" that building an unimpeded access route (i.e. welcoming ANYONE ONTO the base - no guards, no background checks) to the Laurelwood homes (and right behind the main gate) is brilliant. (P.S. The Navy will argue that, because of this new road, come Sept. 2010 the Laurelwood homes will no longer be "on" the base; this is comparable to you putting a fence from your curb, through your yard and to your shed in the back yard and saying the shed is not in your yard anymore.)

The drawback to the APP editorial board's otherwise fine argument today is that of turning the housing over to veterans. Some have tried to turn this Laurelwood issue into a veterans issue, which is it not. Clearly, it is urgent that our nation take care of veterans. However, doing so under the Navy's proposal of "unimpeded access" is just as flawed as putting John Q. Public into those homes. If the Navy from the start had said it was going to conduct background checks and require residents (whether civilians or veterans - retired or otherwise) to pass through the secure main gate, the Laurelwood out-lease probably would never have been a security issue for anyone (surely, the school issue would have been an overhang). However, the EIS never addresses such a scenario (i.e. limit housing to card-carrying veterans, age-restricted vets, etc.), and only pushes for the most expensive and probably most dangerous of the five options studied.

Instead, we reiterate our view that the Navy would have prevented a major headache and will incur far less expense (for us and itself) by revisiting the "No Build Option" and would encourage all NOPE supporters and other watchers to focus on this argument, rather than being distracted by suggestions for what to do with homes that, by law, must be demolished when the lease expires. This fight is about a horrendous contract and how the Navy is willing to compromise NWS Earle's mission and the security of its own base, surrounding communities and nation...and not about what the Navy should do with vacant housing that shouldn't have been constructed (atop wetlands, mind you) in the first place.

No comments: