Naval center makes pitch to stay open

March 28, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The scientists and engineers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Annapolis tried to convince a federal commissioner yesterday that it is a one-of-a-kind facility that the military cannot do without.

Last month, the Department of Defense included the research center situated across the Severn River from the Naval Academy on its list of military installations to be closed or consolidated. That recommendation is being reviewed by the independent Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which will make the decision by July 1.

About 430 positions would be affected by the closure, with about 280 of them transferred to the Naval Surface Weapons Center in Philadelphia. About 125 positions would be eliminated.

Yesterday, staff members at the center showed Rebecca G. Cox, a Continental Airlines executive who serves on the base closure commission, what they do that makes their work vital to the county's defense.

Proponents of the facility say the research done there on the machinery of Navy ships is done nowhere else. And some of the equipment there -- such as Deep Ocean Pressure Simulation Facility that can duplicate the pressure of a depth of 27,000 feet -- is unique.

Ms. Cox, who served on the commission two years ago when it voted unanimously to keep the Annapolis facility open, offered some encouraging comments at the end of her tour.

"Most impressive is the people here. [They are] clearly not only a dedicated group but a very talented organization," Ms. Cox told a gathering of about 200 workers and community members.

Ms. Cox noted that by law, the commission must go along with the Department of Defense's recommendations "unless we find that there is a substantial deviation from their own criteria."

That criteria includes an installation's military value, the economic impact of closing it and the impact of the closing on the community.

"Obviously . . . that criteria was exactly the same in 1993," Ms. Cox said. "That's something that we looked at in 1993 and ultimately decided that there had been a substantial deviation from that criteria."

But she quickly added that with the military's reduction, the resources it needs to fulfill its mission may have changed in the intervening two years.

Two retirees from the center told Ms. Cox that without the research and development performed by the staff, the American naval fleet would suffer.

"Personally, I agree with the need to reduce the size and scope of our defense establishment," said retired Capt. Robin Bosworth, who served as officer in charge of the warfare center until 1991.

"However, I do not believe that the way to do it is to abandon this outstanding facility, break up this winning team of scientists, engineers and support personnel, and attempt to put it all back together again Humpty-Dumpty fashion in Philadelphia."

Larry Argiro, who until his recent retirement led the unit that designs the machinery and propulsion systems for Navy ships ** and submarines, said important research would be disrupted by transferring to Philadelphia. And, he said, the Pentagon's estimated cost to move the facility is far too low.

"The Navy's position that it can move and rebuild facilities and move people for a cost of $25 million to me is not only a fraud, but insulting," he said.

Mr. Argiro noted that in 1993, the Navy offered a cost estimate of $27.4 million just for moving personnel.

Elected officials turned out in force yesterday to offer support for the research center.

At various points during the morning tour, Ms. Cox was accompanied by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, and Reps. Wayne T. Gilchrest and Steny H. Hoyer.

"This is a highly skilled, scientific professional team . . . They do very sophisticated work," Mr. Sarbanes said. "We've put together a tremendous unit here and I don't want to see it degraded, which I think would be the consequence of the move.

"I think the proposal this time is equally flawed as it was last time and we intend obviously to press our case to the commission very hard," he said. "And we hope that logic and reason will once again prevail."

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