Council urges keeping Naval Surface Warfare Center in county

April 18, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Council unanimously approved last night a resolution urging the federal government to keep open the Naval Surface Warfare Center, a ship and submarine research facility near Annapolis.

The Department of Defense has marked the installation, across the Severn River from the Naval Academy, for closure as part of its base consolidation program.

An independent commission will make a final decision on its fate by July 1.

In urging that the center be kept open, council members cited the specialized, highly sophisticated research done by the scientists and engineers at the former David Taylor Research Center, and said that closing it will cause economic and emotional damage to the community.

"If this center is closed, 430 jobs will be lost to Anne Arundel County," said Council President Diane Evans, an Arnold Republican in whose district the facility is situated.

"I represent these people, and I see these people when I go grocery shopping," Ms. Evans said. "I think they're a very important part of the fabric of this community, and that it would rip a tremendous hole in that fabric" if the center is closed.

Michael Lofton, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp., noted that about 80 percent of the employees at the research center are scientists and engineers.

"I can tell you those are going to be very difficult jobs to replace in our community," Mr. Lofton said.

He also pointed out that the center is on land that is surrounded by other military installations that will remain open. "It'll be very limited in what kind of reuse it will permit if the facility were to close," Mr. Lofton said.

Guy Grater, who heads the pulsed power systems department at the warfare center, told the council that in an informal survey of employees, about 25 percent said they would move to the naval installation in Philadelphia, where most of the work of the warfare center would be transferred.

"But 75 percent of the people answered that they will choose not to go," Mr. Grater said. "That is the significant impact on technology that the Navy will give up. . . . It's the safety of anyone who sets foot on a submarine. It's the safety of anyone who sets foot on a surface vessel."

Henry Grierson Jr., a welder in the shop support division, said that during the Cold War, the work that was done at the center was secret. As a result, not many people know the important research that is done there.

"The specifics of what we do are still hush-hush," Mr. Grierson said. "But in general, our job is to help make the surface ships of the Navy the quickest, quietest and safest ships in the world while maintaining cost efficiency."

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