Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another case of mistrust

Citing NOPE's ongoing objections to the Department of Navy's plan to convert underutilized military housing at NWS Earle into a free-for-all civilian community on an active Naval weapons base, and observations of the nearby Fort Monmouth relocation debacle and the U.S. Army's associated bill of goods, we turn supporters' attention to this story from CNN to highlight why local communities, such as ours, need to be skeptical of any DoD housing/infrastructure plans.

Residents and business leaders of Hinesville, Georgia, home to Fort Stewart, took U.S. Army leaders' word and patriotically supported their Military in building up the area's infrastructure ahead of a promised influx of 10,000 soldiers and their families. Area developers poured a reported $200 million into the infrastructure (i.e. sewer, utilities) to support the Army's need for area housing, only to the have the rug pulled from underneath them when the DoD altered course on where to send the soldiers. And, of course, the Pentagon washes its hands of any responsibility, arguing that it's best for the Army to give the answers. The Army, no surprise, was unavailable for comment to CNN.

Skeptics surely could argue that the developers did nothing more than speculate, but the CNN piece would suggest otherwise - that these people answered the Army's call to provide much-needed soldier housing (and other eventual services; i.e. schools). But, no matter how you look at it, the U.S. taxpayer is the one left holding the bag. As civilians, it is our patriotic duty to do all we can to support our Military's needs, much as we have locally for NWS Earle and Fort Monmouth dependents for decades. Yet, reciprocal consideration is absent when the DoD changes course on base staffing, ill-advisedly relocates a base for no apparently good reason, or goes full steam on projects that, ultimately, are ill-conceived and a waste of money.

This is precisely why Colts Neck, Tinton Falls and all of NJ is in the throes of the Laurelwood housing mess at NWS Earle - the DoN knew at the time that Laurelwood was being built in the 1980s that it was relocating the homeport of ships full of sailors designated to live at Laurelwood, yet it still went ahead with a costly housing project that, in the end, is now left for an unwitting base commander and area residents to deal with years down the road. Clearly, the Pentagon/DoD needs to articulate a clearly business strategy when justifying expenditures. Local communities should not be devastated by empty promises from military leaders, poor planning and political or leadership favors that, in the end, compounds years worth of bad decisions and complies with a model that maybe worked 50-75 years ago, but clearly does not in today's world.

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