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Former SecNavs urge Navy to join museum effort

Mar. 26, 2010 - 03:46PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 26, 2010 - 03:46PM  |  
Plans to build the National Naval and Maritime Museum on Washington's Southwest waterfront are stalled, with no commitment from the Navy. Now, three former federal officials have joined the effort to build the museum.
Plans to build the National Naval and Maritime Museum on Washington's Southwest waterfront are stalled, with no commitment from the Navy. Now, three former federal officials have joined the effort to build the museum. (National Maritime Heritage Found)
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Plans to build the National Naval and Maritime Museum on Washington's Southwest waterfront are stalled, with no commitment from the Navy. (National Maritime Heritage Foundation)

Three retired senior federal officials — including two former Navy secretaries — have signed a letter in support of a major project in Washington, D.C., that could include a high-profile new museum for the Navy.

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Three retired senior federal officials — including two former Navy secretaries — have signed a letter in support of a major project in Washington, D.C., that could include a high-profile new museum for the Navy.

There's only one major interested party still not on board — the Navy.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who also served as Navy secretary; former Navy Secretary John Dalton; and former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne all signed a letter to Navy Times in support of the museum project in late March.

The former secretaries join top officials from the Naval Institute, Navy Memorial Foundation, Navy League and District of Columbia, all of whom want to get started on a $205 million development project on the Potomac River waterfront built around what would be called the National Naval and Maritime Museum.

David Miller, chairman of the board of the National Maritime Heritage Foundation, the main force behind the museum project, said his vision was for the site to have world-landmark status: "I tell people, I want them to look at this and think, Sydney Opera House — that's the effect we're aiming for."

Miller said his group's first choice is for the Navy to help build a new interactive museum like the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., which Miller said could be a recruiting boon. The cost to the Navy would be about $78 million; the Corps contributed about $50 million for its museum.

The Navy is aware of the Maritime Foundation's proposal — which was submitted in September — but considers it just one of many options for a new museum somewhere around the capital, said retired Rear Adm. Jay DeLoach, director of Naval History and Heritage Command.

Although DeLoach said there was "general recognition within the Navy and senior Navy leadership" that it was a good idea to raise the profile of the Navy's relatively small museum at the Washington Navy Yard, officials must analyze all options. DeLoach said he could not discuss what the other options were, nor could he talk about what he called the "risks" of the Navy joining the project, or any of the other options.

The situation is apparently in flux because it's the subject of discussions between History and Heritage Command, Naval District Washington, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

"We're exploring a number of options," DeLoach said. "We have to do our due diligence to ensure that any risk to the Navy is minimal."

Related reading

• Nov. 7 story: Nonprofit hasn't heard about museum plan

• http://www.militarytimes.com/static/projects/nextgennavy.pdf">The proposal

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