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County braces for the battle of the bases

Kitsap County commissioners deal with myriad civic issues including transportation, planning and economic development.

Now, add military affairs to the list.

The commissioners plan to appoint a new committee this month that would lobby to protect Kitsap’s naval commands from the next round of base closures, scheduled for 2005.

“I have already heard from three people who want to serve on this committee,” Commissioner Chris Endresen said.

The two-term Democrat from Poulsbo said members of the committee are expected to represent the Kitsap community at-large, and applicants can be drawn from several sectors for the project.

In previous rounds, the Puget Sound Naval Bases Association was successful in making a strong case for Kitsap’s military bases, but the group can no longer participate in closure discussions.

Rules guiding the federal “Base Realignment and Closure” program have shifted to prohibit the involvement of active-duty military personnel.

So the association asked the county to instead put together a separate committee rather than risk its military membership.

“The Navy has put out a directive — appropriately so — that the Puget Sound Naval Bases Association has members that also work on the bases. The Navy sees that as a conflict of interest,” Endresen said.

Guy Stitt of the PSNBA said the organization, which has 32 board members and 5,000 total members, is still in the process of figuring out how to best segregate out the base realignment process from the association.

“If we can ensure the Base Realignment and Closure is done fairly, we win, and our communities win,” Stitt said.

Kitsap County has six major Navy commands: Naval Subase Bangor, NUWC Keyport, Naval Hospital Bremerton, Naval Station Bremerton, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the combination Fleet and Industrial Supply Center/Manchester Fuel Depot.

Most of the commands have generally been considered invulnerable to closure, although powerful U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair expressed concern about NUWC Keyport in the mid-1990s, because its mission is somewhat duplicated by its parent command at Newport, R.I.

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