We need to be ready for BRAC

May 3, 2013

President Barack Obama's proposed 2014 budget called for another round of BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission).

With the implementation of mandated sequestration cuts, combined with proposed budget cuts, the military services will be looking for cost savings and many of those can be found in the shore-based infrastructure — in short, closing bases.

The State of Connecticut has joined together with the city of Groton in support of New London Naval Submarine Base. They have formed a magnificent coalition that has resulted in improvements to the infrastructure of the base with millions of dollars invested by the state. I applaud their support of the submarine base.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, has indicated his support in maintaining three submarine bases on the East Coast: New London, Norfolk, Va., and Kings Bay.

In past years, through our annual Washington, D.C., Fly-In, we have supported the building of both the Seawolf class and Virginia class of fast attack submarines and are now watching with interest the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) design, which could continue the mission of the guided missile submarines (SSGNs).

Additionally, in recent years we have lobbied for the construction of two Virginia class submarines per year rather than one, which gives the nation the best return on investment while supporting our critically important industrial base.

We have supported the of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier to Mayport in Florida and realize the value of the carrier in the region.

We promote at every opportunity the value of the state of the art, quality, low cost maintenance facility that we have in Trident Refit Facility (TRF) and what value it brings to our nation.

We appreciate the efforts of Gov. Nathan Deal and the state in support of our efforts in training programs for TRF by providing a creative solution to address some of the needs immediately.

We also see a great advantage in our Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard hub in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia with Jacksonville Naval Air Station, the Marines’ Blount Island command, Mayport Naval Station and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, which provides homesteading opportunities for many of our military to serve at one of these other installations while maintaining residence in Camden County.

In 1998, we had our first D.C. Fly-In to discuss the possibility of converting four of the ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to SSGNs.

After many years this became a reality and the country has found that the SSGNs are a very versatile platform that plays an important role in many contingencies. Currently, they are heavily engaged in supporting counter terrorist operations.

Terrorism is spreading to regions where weak rule of law gives them an opening. Unfortunately what that means today is that terrorists are trying to develop footholds in Africa.

This is just one more reason why forces in Kings Bay are critical to our future.

Always searching for innovative ideas we recommended two years ago that the Navy consider the blue/gold concept of our SSBNs in the training of the crews for the littoral combat ships to be home ported in Mayport.

This resulted in a team visiting Kings Bay and the recommendation that we be considered for the mission module readiness center, although sadly it is now ranked as plan B.

Our upcoming Joint Land Use Study will give us the tools we need to continue to search for new missions and to support those we have. Our base was built for 10 submarines and we now have eight. With adequate funding we have opportunities for new missions.

We are planning for the future and the challenges we have with the funding for the replacement SSBN.

We must ratchet up our support. As our boats begin retiring we must have ready the boats that are needed to replace them. Our strategic fleet is good for our community and essential to national security.

There is no greater support than what our Camden County community provides to our base, and the men and women who serve there. Our EDICCIMAD is not just a slogan. Every day in Camden County is military appreciation day.

The efforts that will be needed in increasing our missions if there is a BRAC are massive. The last BRAC — even with most of the work done locally—resulted in costs of thousands of dollars.

Our community must be ready.

Sheila McNeill, President
The Camden Partnership