Friday, February 5, 2010

AOL: Belgian Activists Breach Security Around U.S. Nukes

AOL News' Judy Pasternak reports that peace activists spent an unauthorized hour at an Belgian military base "within yards of U.S. nuclear weapons, raising questions about the security of American bombs stored at foreign air bases across Europe." The YouTube video that accompanies the stories is extremely chilling.

Granted, this was an overseas event and nothing catastrophic occurred as a result. However, this is not the first time a nukes base has been easily penetrated by peace demonstrators. Back in November, we shed light on five protestors in Washington roaming Naval Base Kitsap outside of Seattle for four hours, after cutting through at least three lines of security fencing. For equally comical and at the same time alarming reading, we encourage supporters to revisit that story.

This is not to suggest that we're residing atop nuclear stockpiles at Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck (for we, as civilians, have no clue what is sitting in Earle's 300 or so military ordance bunkers), but for those who say NOPE is full of it for saying the Navy will have difficulty securing itself from civilian break-ins once Laurelwood houses are occupied by renters, keep in mind that the Department of Navy's "security measures" for segregating 300 new civilian renter families from the rest of its active base for the next 40 years will be 7-foot-high perimeter fencing and some extra security guards.

Then watch the YouTube video link on AOL's Belgian break-in story, and see whether you still agree with the Department of Navy's assertions from its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that 7-foot fencing, 30-foot buffer zones and a few extra guards will be enough to prevent anyone with ill will toward America from getting to the weapons stored at 11,000-acre Earle and turning Monmouth County into the next Ground Zero.

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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NOPE outreach to Former NJ Governor Tom Kean

NOPE legislative liaison Elaine Mann attended a Monmouth University panel discussion on Tuesday featuring former NJ governor Tom Kean and focusing on the "politics of civility" (i.e. the rise in acrimonious politics on state and federal levels) and a decline in "good government."

Elaine informs NOPE supporters that the former governor and Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, in a sidebar discussion, expressed interest in the details of NOPE's objection to proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle and would follow up on our matter, aided by a packet of info Elaine provided. We will follow up with Mr. Kean, considering his expertise on terrorism and the advice he could provide to the community in identifying potential security threats of opening the Colts Neck weapons storage base to civilians later this year.

Separately, last night, Chairman Bill Holobowski briefed Tinton Falls Borough Council on the merits of passing a borough resolution to support S762/A2014 in Trenton, which would require the State Treasurer to conduct a financial assessment of the Laurelwood housing situation before New Jersey's DOT or DEP could issue permits to the Navy and its developer, Laurelwood Homes LLC, for the proposed conversion to civilian occupancy. NOPE is hopeful the Borough Council will approve the resolution at next week's meeting.

The State bill, much like the ongoing GAO study underway on the federal level, is a common-sense approach to studying how much the Department of Navy plan to convert Earle's military housing to civilian use will cost New Jersey taxpayers (NOPE estimates upward of $500 million). And unlike some extremely misleading info being circulated by select NOPE opponents, passage of such a bill would do nothing to sway any decision on the ultimate usage of the 300 Laurelwood homes. For those that still haven't read the government's documentation, the Navy's Final EIS from May 2009 makes abundantly clear that Laurelwood Homes, LLC has complete say over eventual tenants, which will amount to anyone that can cut a $1600-$2200 monthly rent check. So, to reiterate, S762 will do nothing but allow for a very useful study, to the benefit of New Jersey residents, especially in Tinton Falls and Colts Neck, that face a potentially crippling unfunded mandate.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adding insult to injury...

At the same time the Department of Navy is slapping New Jersey in the face with an unfunded mandate (which NOPE estimates at about half a billion dollars and anticipates a GAO study will verify) for proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle and compromising its own and our security, a few miles down the road we have another case of egregious financial mismanagement and ineptitude surrounding the DoD's impending closure of Fort Monmouth.

Although different from the Laurelwood housing case at Earle, each case sheds light on why NOPE is adamantly opposed to the Navy's plans for Laurelwood housing and how poorly the U.S. Military manages budgets, and why local citizens should not only encourage their elected officials to be more vigilant about military matters that impact New Jersey, but also to become more informed and involved themselves.

In a report that should come as no surprise to anyone watching how the DoD has turned New Jersey into a bigger laughingstock, The Asbury Park Press this morning says the "price tag to close Fort Monmouth has jumped more than $100 million in the past nine months." With that, we now know that it will cost U.S. taxpayers $1.87 billion to relocate Fort Monmouth's mission to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, or 137% more than the initial $789 million estimate in 2005. Of course, spokepeople for the U.S. Army were unavailable to comment.

And that's just the financial parameters of the move. Not mentioned is how the ill-informed BRAC decision-makers literally have set back the Army's mission by years and will drain the highly-skilled workforce at Ft. Monmouth by relocating the base, presumably for the sole sake of paying off favors to either Maryland politicians or key military brass. The notion of any kind of military benefit (in a recession, no less) of a nearly-$2 billion relocation expense is hogwash, when considering such funding could go toward better gear for our soldiers or attending to the needs of DAVs or other military needs.

In short, NOPE remains (and needs its supporters to remain) vigilant in pressing the Department of Navy to reverse its course on Laurelwood housing and to end the contract with its developer and raze the development. We would encourage you not only to stay tuned here and in the local media to this case, but within 90 days of the DoN's deadline to open the base ahead of planned civilian housing at NWS Earle this September to call your elected representatives in N.J. and Washington to press our opposition to privatization at NWS Earle! We need NOPE supporters to remain vocal, before we have another Fort Monmouth-type debacle (and likely even worse) on our hands.