By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2005 The secretary of the Navy said today he's "confident" that base closures and realignments recommended for the sea service are "more than sufficient to fully support the future Navy and Marine Corps force structure."
Gordon R. England, who also serves as acting deputy secretary of defense, told members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission that the world, the country and the Navy have changed. In response, he said, the Navy must adapt its infrastructure to better meet this new environment.
That involves transforming the military so it's ready to meet current and future threats and demands eliminating excess infrastructure and consolidating operations, England told the commission.
To support this effort, the Defense Department has recommended closing nine major Navy bases and 46 smaller installations and realigning eight major Navy bases.
The recommended changes were based on saving defense dollars so they can be invested where they're needed and developing bases to support military readiness for the future, Anne Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, told the committee members.
The Navy's share of the BRAC recommendations, once implemented, would save $1.5 billion a year.
Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, and Gen. Michael Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, joined England in supporting the BRAC proposals.
Clark told committee members he's never seen a previous BRAC process that focused so closely on joint operations. He said he is impressed by the concrete, objective analysis that went into formulating the recommendations.
Hagee said the proposed changes eliminate excess infrastructure but preserve critical ground and air training areas needed to support military readiness. The proposals also promote joint use of military training sites to maximize their effectiveness.
The decision-making behind the BRAC recommendations "has been a very difficult process for the department," England told the commission, particularly in light of the potential impact on communities that have shown strong support for their local bases.
The process involved "very, very difficult choices," Clark agreed, He specifically mentioned the recommendation to close Naval Submarine Base New London, in Connecticut, as the Navy reduces its attack submarine fleet.
Clark said the Navy has established strong relationships with many of the affected communities but had to face current circumstances and long-term requirements.
"We have too much structure," he told the commission. "In order for us to have the Navy that we need to have in the future, we have got to redirect resources to the recapitalization process."
BRAC decisions have to be long-term to accomplish their objectives, he said. "It's not about where I want to be next year. This question is, 'Where do I want to be in 20 years?'" he said.
The 2005 BRAC recommendations, he said, represent "the direction to get us where we think we need to be 20 years from now."