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Analysis: BRAC commission tosses a curve at Navy's plans

Wednesday’s headline on the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Web site said it all.

“PORTSMOUTH SAVED!”

The small shipyard in Kittery, Maine, the government’s oldest, was targeted for closure by the Pentagon who wanted to send the 4,500 workers there to other Navy shipyards in an effort to save money — an estimated $1.3 billion over the next 20 years.

But the Base Realignment and Closure commission didn’t see it that way, rejecting the recommendation 7-1. It was pretty transparent how the vote would go as BRAC chair Anthony Principi, a decorated Vietnam veteran, former Navy officer and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said, “I believe Portsmouth is the truly preeminent shipyard in this nation. It is the gold standard by which the country should measure all shipyards. Their ability to turn around subs quicker than any other shipyard, thereby saving the Navy (money) was significantly noted.”

According to marinetimes.com, the commission’s staff determined that by shifting Portsmouth’s workload to the Navy’s shipyards in Bremerton, Pearl Harbor, Ha., and Norfolk, Va. would leave just an 8 percent excess capacity. If demands for ship repairs surged, commissioners worried the Navy couldn’t meet the demand.

“All human activity must involve some amount of excess capacity,” Commissioner Phillip Coyle told marinetimes.com. “I don’t use my garage 24 hours a day, but I’m not about to tear it down.”

If the commission’s vote, which was scheduled to be ratified today, stands after being re-examined by President Bush and Congress, that means the Navy won’t be sending 1,400 workers to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The president has until Sept. 23 to accept of reject the commission’s recommendations in their entirety. If he accepts them, Congress has 45 legislative days to reject the recommendations in their entirety or they become binding for the Defense Department.

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair), one of the staunchest supporters of a strong military presence in the Puget Sound region and a member of the House Appropriations defense

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