Navy officials plead to save warfare center Annapolis unit on Pentagon hit list ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

April 15, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

High-ranking officials at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Annapolis went all out yesterday to keep their base from being closed.

Colonels and captains and technical experts offered charts, lectures and a tour of some very big and impressive scientific equipment as they tried to persuade Beverly B. Byron, a former Maryland congresswoman, and U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes to spare the base.

Mrs. Byron is a member of the panel examining the Pentagon's list of proposed base closings.

The center, located across the Severn River from the U.S. Naval Academy, is to lose approximately 350 jobs as one of many bases recommended for closure by the Secretary of Defense.

The jobs will be transferred to Philadelphia and to Carderock in Montgomery County. The status of the remaining 100 people is uncertain, said base spokesman Jim Scott.

Base officials argued the research facilities should not be closed because their technical missions provide essential technology for national defense and American industry.

Engineers perform highly technical research, development and testing for submarines, surface ships and ships' systems.

"We're doing basic research to give America's technology industry the edge," argued Larry J. Argiro, the base associate technical director for Propulsion and Auxiliary Systems.

But Mrs. Byron was unmoved. "All 31 bases being looked at are convinced theirs is the very best," she snapped. "What here has got to stay because you can't move it?"

Several laboratories, such as the Deep Ocean Pressure Simulation Facility, the only one of its kind in the world, are impossible to move, officials said.

The simulation facility mimics real operating conditions for submarines and can test engines for submarines and other technology at farless cost than actual conditions, said John Sasse, an engineer in the Deep Ocean Lab.

The base tested a submarine engine for Westinghouse for about $140,000, he said, while the same test at sea would cost $2 million to $3 million.

Mrs. Byron -- and base officials -- had additional concerns. "Can you keep your team together if they're moved?" she asked.

Center officials fear that many workers may retire or seek other jobs rather than move. Mr. Argiro predicted 50 percent to 60 percent of the professional personnel would leave.

But Ray Whealton, an electrical technician who is about to retire, predicted a 75 percent loss.

"Experienced people, those near retirement and younger ones in the 35-40 age bracket with wives who work in local schools, are not going to go to Philly," he said. "They'll leave."

Mr. Sarbanes worried that the closure would hurt the research capability.

"A facility of this sort, highly trained to function on the edge of tech and research, is a real asset because of its ability to work together. If you severely undercut your team, you hurt your function," he warned.

Mrs. Byron and the other seven members of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission have until June 1 to publish any proposed changes to the Secretary of Defense's recommendations. By July 1, the commission must submit its report -- for approval or disapproval, but not revision -- to President Clinton and Congress.

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