Creating Military Value in Groton Sub Base
By Bob Ross
August 22, 2010
Five years ago, in a hotel ballroom in Arlington, Va., the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission gave new life to Naval Submarine Base New London by voting to remove it from the list of bases the Department of Defense recommended closing.
The vote was a joyful culmination of months of unrelenting effort by Team Connecticut. Led by Gov. M. Jodi Rell; the group consisted of public- and private-sector individuals representing the state legislature, Connecticut's congressional delegation, municipal governments, regional planning and economic development organizations, the defense industry, other area businesses and active private citizens.
In the wake of this accomplishment, those who worked so hard realized that this should never happen again. The state cannot risk the 15,000 jobs, the $3.3 billion annual economic impact and the submarine center of excellence created in the synergy between area submarine training commands, operational research and development, and nearby Electric Boat.
Connecticut successfully waged this battle in 1993 and again in 2005. We do not want to wage it again.
Today, state coordinated efforts have helped put the base in a stronger position to withstand a future BRAC challenge. The base is experiencing a remarkable transformation, replacing archaic and inefficient infrastructure with modern facilities and new capacity for growth.
After the 2005 BRAC, the state embarked on a strategic plan with the simple goal to enhance the military value of the base - the main criteria used by the BRAC Commission in base closure recommendations. Enhancing the military value of the base reduces the likelihood it will be targeted again.
Our state investments only complement much larger federal construction projects now under way on the base. State investments are made possible by a bond authorization of up to $50 million, signed into law by Gov. Rell in 2007. The governor formally presented the first of these investments to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus last September, providing $7.65 million to fully fund two projects that will enhance base operations and the maintenance of submarines.
It was an unprecedented event. It marked the first time any state government had fully funded improvements of this magnitude on a military installation.
When he accepted state funding, Secretary Mabus said, "Investing in the base shows a lot of foresight on behalf of the state government, the legislature and the governor… The state's actions have gone a long way to making sure we maintain the industrial base here in Connecticut."
On Tuesday, the Bond Commission approved $3.22 million for the next two investments to construct one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art training facilities on the base. And discussions are under way to identify other future projects to enhance the base's military value.
State officials have pioneered an effective framework for ongoing investments to protect the base. Active programs are now in place to support service members and their families. And the state has coordinated efforts in all layers of government to keep its promise to protect the base.
While the threat of the next BRAC is not immediate, it most certainly looms on a not-too-distant horizon. This month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he had "authorized each of the military departments to consider consolidation or closure of excess bases and other facilities where appropriate." And he characterized base closures as politically hard - but not impossible. So Team Connecticut must not rest. The team must continue planning and investing, and follow through on the strategic initiatives put in place five years ago.
Citizens should be proud of Connecticut's early history as the arsenal of democracy. It is part of our character, embedded in the economic fabric of our state and a legacy that should carefully be protected. They should also be proud of our more recent history in protecting the unique heritage and future interests of the submarine base, built on 112 acres originally donated by the state in 1868 and sustained by the people of Connecticut ever since.
Bob Ross is executive director of the state Office of Military Affairs.