Thursday, May 19, 2005

Don’t BRAC me, don’t BRAC thee; BRAC that Congressional District behind yon tree

Last week the long awaited BRAC list came out. Early and often the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes and the high-pitched squealing started by the stuck …. stuck… affected Senators and Congressmen.

I know I am late with this, but I’ve been giving the taxpayers more bang for their buck this week. John at Arrggghhhh!! and Bubblehead already sent me a report chit; but enough of my excuses. Let’s look at the Navy side of the house. When you look at the list, the first things that comes to mind is, if you are a Blue Stater, you are going to have fewer military folks to yell at.

Politics had nothing to do with this; a lot of it has to do with high overhead and a desire to shrink tail to make more tooth. This is one place I see a problem; once you get rid of acreage for the military, you will have a lot of trouble getting it back when you need it. Additionally, concentrating your fleet. This man would agree, it is best if your enemy concentrates his fleet. I can see him now, looking at us like,

“Do you ever remember anything? BTW, your torpedoes still suck – the 'Long Lance' still laughs at you.”

Back to the subject at hand. The Navy Times has a solid executive summary. Lets review some of the high points. I’m not going to cover all the Navy issues, just the ones that interest me the most.

Closing New London: Real good review by Smash, but I think some of the BRAC is penny wise and pound foolish. There is more to a military base than just jobs and money saved. It isn't a zero sum game, and the world isn't static. St. Mary’s is nice, but the place is already packed for its environment with a fair number of people having to live in Jacksonville. More subs in Norfolk. Well let's talk about Norfolk.

Hey speaking of subs. Who here remembers NS Charleston? Lots of space there. Oh, that’s right, closed that last decade. Eggs. Basket. Talk amongst yourselves.

Norfolk sinks into the Chesapeake - Women and Minorities suffer most: Doing my finger and toes math, the Navy plans to move ~6,500 military and civilian personnel to the Hampton Blvd – 564 – Terminal Blvd traffic jam. If you have not been to Nahfawk in the last five years; you have not been to Norfolk. This is no longer an extra inexpensive and affordable town. Not San Diego yet, but not low rent either. Property values are going through the roof, and remember those crack houses in downtown Nahfawk from the ‘80s? Well, folks are buying them by the bucketful, fix’n em up, and moving in. The downtown residential areas are improving and the nightmare commute on 64/264/Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) is just getting too much for people. That’s QOL. Let’s talk strategery. NIT is huge. The commercial traffic is growing, and the GPIII container ships are huge and getting larger. They all go through the HRBT and past the Navy Station to get to NIT and other commercial terminals. The HRBT is the only way to get to the open water – The Chesapeake Bay. Still need to get throught the CBBT to get to the open Atlantic. Norfolk is beautiful at Christmas. Eagle1 call your office.

Navy Reserve HQ leaving the French Quarter and Moving to CFFC in Norfolk - NAS Willow Grove Closed: Can we be honest here. Let’s declare the Naval Reserves a hostile force and send them to GTMO. We would all be better for it. Either that or add a rider to the next Welfare Reform Act. OK, that was overboard. How about this. Any Navy Reserve unit or reserve requirement activated since 9/11 will receive a 50% plus-up in personnel, funding and material. Reserve units or funded SELRES billets not activated will be put in a pool. 80% of those billets will go away and funding given to the Marine Corps. The remaining 20% of the billets will be used to fund more Intel Specialists and build a viable Brown Water Navy force in the Reserve Component. We will then cut 80% of all Reserve staff positions. I’m sorry, we don’t need a parallel Reserve Staff structure that mirrors the Active Component. That is just a jobs program. Oh, and just for spite – the non-deploying enablers knows as TARs and now FTS personnel will have their XXX7 designators converted to XXX0 and promptly given Sea Duty orders. Either that, or they can go work for Skippy in Japan for a couple of years.

Manpower and Personnel consolidation in Millington: About damn time. Quit fighting each other and serve the fleet. Right idea. Low cost of living area.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard: As my P-3 friends would say – NH and ME Congressional delegation can just “Set 5.” Trying to do anything to make that yard more usable is about as much of a nightmare are garbage in Groton. IMAO, the dredging issue was of the last nails in Portsmouth’s coffin. After awhile (see Roosevelt Roads closing) if you are too much of a pain in the tail, eventually someone is going to say, “enough.” Enough. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the idea of having even less strategic, irreplaceable industrial capacity, but, enough.

Realignments” - The hidden story: Stuck between the Closures and Gains is an interesting and neglected section called “Realignments.” Let’s look at one spot.

Naval Air Station Brunswick, ME: losing 2,314 military, 61 civilians. What does NASB do? Well, the largest job it does is host 3 VP and 1 VPU active duty squadrons. Everything else is support, reserves, or “other.” Each VP squadron has ~400-350 personnel. Lets call it 400 to keep it easy. The 3 (in the old Cold War NASB had 6) add up to ~1,200. The VPU has less – lets call it 250. That makes it 1,450. They have a Wing staff there as well, but it and the support functions are not that big, a couple hundred max. That leaves another 600 +/- from other commands. WHAT IS LEFT? In the report they state that NASB will become a "Naval Air Facility." OK, but are you going to have anyone there besides the reserves to keep the facility open? It is one of the last military airbases left in the NE (actually the last one working full time) on the great circle route to Europe, so I can see the need to keep it open. As a matter of fact, when you look at page C-8, that is exactly what happened. As the last base standing in Kerry Kountry, they are keeping it for Homeland Defense. But the question remains, what is left there? VPU and reserve VR squadrons?

I want to see the details there. The Navy Times has a funny line,

“Jacksonville would gain Patrol Wing 5 and its P-3 maritime patrol aircraft squadrons from Brunswick Naval Air Station…”
Really? Mmmmm. As my P-3 spy tells me, in the Cold War each P-3 wing had 6 squadrons. They now have 3 (+1 VQ or VPU depending on where you are). NAS Jacksonville already has 3 VP squadrons and Patrol Wing 11. Do you really think there is a reason to have Wing 5 AND Wing 11 on the same base? With the problems we are having with our P-3 fleet as we wait for the P-8 – what odds do you want to take that those 3 squadrons may not make it past the Puzzle Palace on the Potomac as they make their way down the coast from NASB to NAS Jax. I smell the blood in the water from here….. The sharks are hungry.

This is only the end of the beginning. Still more steps to go. One thing that does worry me as the military retreats from the NE, those bases are about the only reason many of those senators show any support for the military at any time. I know that is strictly political, but support is support. Making sausage is ugly. Let the games begin.

He’s still watching.

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