Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Region's Bases Appear Spared; Pentagon Report Early, but Positive

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Region's Bases Appear Spared; Pentagon Report Early, but Positive

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL DAVIS, The Times-Union

A report released by the Pentagon this week seems to bode well for Jacksonville's military bases, specifically the city's Naval Air Depot, in next year's round of base closings.

The report, sent to Congress Tuesday, provides the first statistical evidence to support Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's estimate that the military has 24 percent more base capacity than it needs. The cuts could yield billions of dollars in savings by 2011.

The excess is calculated by comparing existing bases and projecting the forces each service will have in 2009.

The Navy and Marine Corps are at 21 percent excess; the Air Force is at 24 percent. The Army seems to be the hardest hit: 29 percent. Surplus is broken down further to include bases within the military branches.

For example, the Navy's aircraft depots have only a 1 percent excess, measured by the anticipated work load of the depot.

"I think that's very good news," said Dan McCarthy, director of military affairs for the city. "When you see the bases with significant excess capacity and the depots with no excess capacity, that speaks well of their prospects for the future."

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said the report's findings are no reason to relax.

"I think the report itself says it shouldn't be used to project base closures, so I think we ought to be cautious about it," Crenshaw said. "I think that report confirms what I already know firsthand and that is our depot is doing its job and is doing it well."

The depot was almost closed in 1995 and has been considered vulnerable since.

Capt. David J. Beck, the depot's commanding officer, did not comment on the report but said in a released statement, "I will tell you that I am proud to say that the 4,800 civilian, military, and contract personnel at the Depot continue to work hard to provide readiness today, tomorrow, and in the future for the naval aviation enterprise."

The Navy has 33 percent more ship-docking capacity than it needs, and the Navy and Marine Corps combined have 20 percent more aircraft hangar space than needed.

The ship-docking capacity also includes submarines, which could affect Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Kingsland, Ga. But Georgia officials said they are not concerned.

"We're not at the point where any decisions are being made about any specific base," said Ret. Army Col. Fred Bryant, deputy director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee. "I don't see that this is anything to be alarmed at."

The base is home to eight ballistic-missile submarines and is the only base in the Atlantic fleet capable of supporting the Trident missile, one of the Navy's premier weapons.

The report also estimates a 1 percent excess for logistics bases, but McCarthy said that shouldn't affect Blount Island Marine Corps Facility. …

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