Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert delivers remarks Nov. 27 during an all-hands call aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Greenert, the Navy's top admiral, said last week he doesn't see a great need for the Navy to go through another round of base closures. (MCS Veronica Mammina / Navy)
NORFOLK, VA. — In what may provide some reassurance to coastal communities that are heavily dependent on military spending, the Navy’s top admiral says he doesn’t see a great need for the Navy to go through another round of base closures.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert made the comments during a visit to Naval Station Mayport in Florida last week.
The Defense Department has requested that Congress approve a new round of base closings — known as BRAC, or Base Closure and Realignment — to begin in 2017 so it can stop paying for unneeded infrastructure. While the Defense Department has not specified which bases might be targeted, Greenert said he doesn’t see a lot of excess capacity in the Navy.
“Mayport will be a part of our future for as far into the future as I can see. Some people say gee whiz, are we going to BRAC? I don’t see that,” Greenert said during a webcast all hands call with sailors.
Army officials have said they support going through closures to align their infrastructure needs with a declining force size. Defense officials have said there’s a significant amount of unneeded infrastructure that needs to be eliminated.
“We need another round of BRAC. We’ve got at least 25 percent unneeded infrastructure in this department. And if we can’t get Congress to allow us to close it, then we’re simply going to waste the taxpayers’ money, frankly. And we won’t have that money to invest in other things like readiness and reducing the numbers of force cuts that are required,” Undersecretary of Defense Robert Hale said in a media briefing earlier this month, according to a Defense Department transcript.
Members of Congress have largely been reluctant to approve a round of base closures out of fears their home states could lose bases and significantly damage local economies. In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia — home to several naval installations, including the world’s largest in Norfolk — about 45 percent of the economy is dependent upon defense spending, according to Old Dominion University’s 2013 state of region report.
“I’m very satisfied with our laydown of our bases as we look around the world,” Greenert told reporters after the all-hands call. “So we have Mayport, and we have Hampton Roads. We have two fine fleet concentration areas there on the East Coast, good balance there with, you know, with Connecticut with submarines. People ask me, do you have the need? Do you see a great need for BRAC? I say, no, I don’t.”
Those fighting to keep their local bases open welcomed Greenert’s comments but said they’re still not letting their guard down.
“I would rather hear the CNO say that than something else - that they’re very aggressively seeking BRAC,” said Craig Quigley, executive director of Hampton Roads Federal Facilities and Military Alliance.
“But it’s certainly nothing that we’re ever going to take for granted.”
Quigley said he’s working with state and local leaders to continue making the region more military friendly so it can withstand any suggestions that forces here should be moved elsewhere, as nearly happened during a 2005 BRAC that jeopardized a Navy fighter jet base in Virginia Beach.
“We are going to work as hard as we can to take advantage of any outcome from a future BRAC round to make it to the advantage of Hampton Roads, not to its detriment,” he said.
A state commission formed by former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell recommended that the state encourage another BRAC because Virginia could be in a good position to gain more Defense Department activities as a result and might lose personnel without it.
“Without a BRAC, it is the view of the Commission that the Department will continue to reduce or close commands without public comment and without providing notice of its actions. The elimination of the U.S. Joint Forces Command is an example of the type of ‘back-door’ BRAC that the Commonwealth can expect without another BRAC,” the report says.
Greenert said that though he doesn’t see a need for the Navy to go through BRAC, he also said it is a valuable process to undertake.
“It helps us go through a deliberate, algorithmically based and analytically based process to take a look at that. So I can’t say there will be no BRAC, but I’m saying we’re not pushing it here in the Navy. But if done, you know, we’ll contribute to it and we’ll comply,” he said.