Thursday, February 4, 2010

Navy's aircraft carrier intentions worth watching

The legislatively-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) was published Tuesday by the Department of Defense. There is nothing specific in the QDR to NOPE's agenda with NWS Earle housing, but it is interesting to note yet another case of U.S. Military leaders' poor infrastructure planning and egregious financial mismanagement, as exemplified locally by two cases - the $2 billion Ft. Monmouth closure (and move to Maryland), and the presumed $500 million-plus unfunded mandate for turning an active Naval weapons base into a civilian apartment complex.

In the QDR on p. 69, NOPE supporters should observe a seemingly matter-of-fact assertion that the Navy will "home port an East Coast carrier in Mayport, Florida." Seems harmless...and maybe justifiable (defensively speaking), right?

Well, according to Bill Bartel of the Virginian-Pilot, this single line in the QDR is drawing the ire of the Newport, VA region, home to all five U.S. nuclear carriers on the East Coast. The economic impact (and we know from our cases at Earle and Ft. Monmouth that the Military's cost modeling is inept) could be massive - $650 million and 11,000-job loss to Virginia.

Long story short...a nasty fight is brewing. The DoD says it needs to move the homeport to mitigate the risk of terror attack on Hampton Roads. Virginia legislators claim the Navy has given no justifiable research to prove the move is necessary, nor that the region is a terror target. It is possible that arguments on both sides are valid, fully or partially. Florida, meanwhile, is obviously excited by this prospects.

So who will "win"? Not the U.S. taxpayer, as we know.

A comment in Mr. Bartel's story, by a U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (R-4th District, Virginia and a member of the House Armed Services Committee), sheds light not on the victor, but on why these types of maneuvers get done. Rep. Forbes citing a first-person recollection of being in the White House "when President Bush looked over to the Florida delegation and said, 'we're going to get you that carrier.'"

Again, this QDR issue has nothing directly to do with Earle housing, but considering NOPE's experience with Laurelwood housing (i.e. Navy enters 52-year Laurelwood lease in the 1980s, knowing full well the homeport for the Laurelwood-resident sailors was going to be moved shortly thereafter from NWS Earle to Virginia) and the nearly-$2 billion Fort Monmouth debacle, it is worth watching how this Navy-Virginia battle will play out and comparing the ultimate outcomes.

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