BRAC list brings good news

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Base Realignment and Closure list came out yesterday morning and there’s good news for Kitsap County.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton looks to benefit from the proposed closure of Naval Station Portsmouth in Maine with an additional 1,401 civilian employees. While Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn’t specifically refer to where the additional civilian workers would come from, Portsmouth is a repair facility for fast-attack submarines.

The Human Resources Support Center Northwest, located in Silverdale, also looks to gain 23 additional civilian workers. Rumsfeld proposed closing a similar office in Hawaii.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor was on the BRAC list, losing a single civilian position to realignment. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Keyport, and Naval Station Everett, both targets of BRAC twice before, were not on this year’s list.

Exactly where or when the changes will be made are not yet known.

“We’re looking at it and waiting for more information,” said Cmdr. Karen Sellers, spokeswoman for Naval Base Kitsap, on Friday morning.

Keyport was affected by the proposed closure of Hawthorne Army Depot, a sprawling facility in Nevada. Spokeswoman Diane Jennings said that 22 people there work on mines and torpedoes, a service they’ve provided since 1980.

“We’re evaluating and watching what happens with the Army,” Jennings said. “We won’t do our transition plans until it becomes law and we know that the list can change. So we’re going to continue to focus on our mission.”

Rumsfeld proposed closing 33 major bases and realigning 29 more, including Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane and McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma. It is estimated it will save the government nearly $50 billion over the next two decades. He also recommended closing a number of reserve facilities in Washington state. They include the Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center in Tacoma, Vancouver Barracks, the Army National Guard Center in Everett, the Army Reserve Center at Fort Lawton in Seattle, and the 1st Lt. Richard H. Walker U.S. Army Reserve Center.

“Our current arrangements, designed for the Cold War, must give way to the new demands of the war against extremism and other evolving 21st Century challenges.” Rumsfeld said Friday on the needs for the BRAC.

The list now must be reviewed by the BRAC Commission which will make its recommendations to President Bush who can only accept or reject the list as a whole. There is no line-item veto. If accepted, it is up to Congress to vote on the recommendations. Both the House and Senate can only vote on the entire list of recommendations.

The Navy dominates Kitsap County’s economy, directly and indirectly pumping $1.7 billion in payroll and is responsible for 47,000 military and civilian jobs.

“Overall, I’m very pleased,” U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair), the state’s strongest military backer in Congress, told the Seattle P-I. “These are realignments, and nothing major is closed. I’m thrilled we don’t have any real problems.”

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