Organizations affiliated with Naval Support Facility (NSF) Indian Head met Mar. 26 to discuss how any future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) or spending reductions might affect the community around the installation. The meeting, sponsored by the Indian Head Defense Alliance (IHDA) and the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, featured local, state and federal leaders with insider perspectives on BRAC and the nation's fiscal challenges.
John Bloom of the IHDA set the tone of the meeting with a discussion of how Indian Head and Maryland navigated the 2005 BRAC. "Those communities that had a [BRAC] support group fared better than those that did not," he said. "What was the most important factor? Indian Head itself. Indian head has military value."
Bloom praised the work of Maryland organizations and leaders during the last BRAC, an effort that saw Maryland as a "winner" of several realignments. "Without the alliance in Indian Head, this whole thing is dead in the water," he said.
Bloom and other leaders in the Indian Head community singled out Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, who worked tirelessly during the 2005 BRAC to protect NSF Indian Head and its supported commands. Hoyer, no stranger to Indian Head and a longtime advocate of the installation, addressed the uncertainty surrounding a potential BRAC and budget cuts. Spending decreases, he said, loom whether or not an official BRAC is initiated. "There is a BRAC going on right now," said Hoyer. "There is a $1.2 trillion sequestration facing [the nation]. That means theoretically [the Department of Defense] could face $60 billion in cuts per year for the next 10 years."
Hoyer said sequestration was "irrational process" and called it the "most irresponsible act" he ever witnessed in Congress. Hoyer added that it was "unlikely" that Congress would address sequestration during its current session. Hoyer said eliminating earmarks has made the business of legislating more difficult. "Eliminating earmarks, in my opinion, was not a smart thing to do," he said. "Why? You shouldn't put your legislators in a position where they have to go hat in hand to the administration."
In light of legislative difficulties, fiscal or otherwise, Hoyer told the audience the time had come for military communities to circle the wagons. "Are we ready for another BRAC?" he asked. "It's a matter of if, not when. We must continue to sell this base."
Hoyer also addressed a concern of Indian Head's largest supported command, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD). "We need to accelerate some of the DoD provisions for constructions," he said.
Another speaker at the meeting, Anthony Principi, was the chairman of the 2005 BRAC. He offered a key piece of advice to the Indian Head-affiliated organizations regarding military value, the basis by which installations are judged. "Research and development does not appear in the military value guidelines," he said. Principi suggested that community leaders around Indian Head should lobby the Pentagon to amend those guidelines, since research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) is vital to the national defense.
Principi noted that there are 44 labs in all the military services. "A report is in the works that will affect RDT&E," he said. Principi cited "operational effectiveness and efficiency" as the measures that will guide any future lab closures or consolidations. Principi also identified labs within the Department of Energy as a potential competitor to DoD labs.
Maryland State Delegate John Bohanan presented the Annapolis perspective on any future BRAC or budget reductions. "Maryland is extremely fortunate with the amount of federal money spent here," he said. The sour economy, said Bohanan, has led to dire budget situations in many Maryland counties, a condition that makes protecting military installations in the state all the more important.
Bohanan cautioned Maryland localities to remember military installations as they seek to develop land and increase tax revenues. "We need to make sure we don't encroach on our military bases," he said.
The topic of encroachment was also on the mind of Capt. Pete Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac. Nette briefed the community on the missions and capabilities located at Indian Head. While Nette did not offer any opinion on BRAC, he noted that NSASP has presented a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) initiative to Charles County. Participating in the study will not only protect the capabilities of NSASP-hosted commands, but would also help military planners envision the missions NSASP can host in the future. "[JLUS] is one of the tools we can use to look at encroachment," he said.
Dennis McLaughlin, technical director for NSWC IHD, also presented his organization's capabilities and its economic impact to the community. McLaughlin described some of the unique products created at NSWC IHD and the intellectual capital fostered at his command.
As noted by Principi earlier in the meeting, RTD&E capabilities in the United States are an increasingly scarce commodity, a result of what Principi called the "globalization of science." After the presentation about NSWC IHD, Hoyer interjected. "It's very important to note that the private sector is not doing this like it did 40 years ago," he said. "That's why [NSF Indian Head] is so critical."