In what may provide some reassurance to coastal communities that are 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 Mayport Naval Station in Florida last week.
The Defense Department has requested that Congress approve a 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," Undersecretary of Defense Robert Hale said in a media briefing earlier this month, according to a Defense Department transcript. "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."
Members of Congress largely have been reluctant to approve a round of base closures out of fears their home states could lose bases and significantly damage local economies. In Hampton Roads, about 45 percent of the economy is dependent upon defense spending, according to Old Dominion University's 2013 state of the 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.' "
Local base advocates 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 Military and Federal Facilities Alliance.
"But it's certainly nothing that we're ever going to take for granted."
|Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert|