City: Navy base in good position to stay open
EVERETT - Local officials believe they can make a strong business case for keeping Naval Station Everett open as the Pentagon begins formulating its latest military base closure list.
What’s at stake is Everett’s second-largest employer; about 6,500 personnel work at the base and those personnel make up $420 million in annual city revenue.
What’s unknown is how deep a series of 2013 and 2015 base closures will be. The Department of Defense will release its 2013 list by May 17.
Base closures are specifically prohibited in the sequestration law, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington, D.C.-based independent policy research institute.
Across-the-board sequester budget cuts totaling $1.2 trillion took effect March 1 as a result of Congress failing to agree on a deficit reduction plan. Half of the cuts are to come from defense and half from domestic programs. Defense has to cut more than $500 billion, according to Politico.
Both U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson believe Naval Station Everett is well-positioned to avoid closure.
Naval Station Everett, which broke ground in 1987, is the Navy’s most modern and environmentally friendly base, they said.
Since 2005, the Navy has spent $80 million in new capital investments in Naval Station Everett. The base has room for expansion, Larsen said.
Everett’s location uniquely gives it the most direct route to Asia and ship access to Puget Sound doesn’t require dredging, they said.
Military surveys show that sailors specifically ask to be stationed at Naval Station Everett because of the quality of life here, Stephanson said.
And the Navy’s current military strategy focuses more resources to the West Coast to keep an eye on threats from Asia and to explore the emerging maritime frontier of the Arctic Ocean, Larsen said.
“On the merits of Naval Station Everett, we have a very positive story to tell, but the uncertainty of sequestration and military spending and the federal budget are all red flags,” Stephanson said.
Everett officials met with top Navy officials in charge of base realignments last month in Washington, D.C. to remind them of Naval Station Everett’s importance. City officials make it an annual trip, Stephanson said.
Stephanson also met with Coast Guard officials to expand the Coast Guard’s presence at the Navy base.
There is room for expanding Naval Station Everett, they said.
Right now, major and intermediate ship repairs are done at Bremerton’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Mechanics from Naval Station Everett are transported daily to Bremerton for the repairs, Stephanson said.
The lack of ship repair facilities is a liability, Stephanson said.
Naval Station Everett could benefit from having the equipment to do intermediate ship repairs, Larsen said. Anything larger would be a “poor use of taxpayer dollars to compete with the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard,” Larsen said.
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