Navy base growth is reassuring
Six years after the federal Base Realignment and Closure recommendations were issued, the last impact of those decisions has been felt locally.
And it was another positive one.
That’s in large part because of a unified front from local elected officials and business leaders who recognized the importance of the defense industry to Rhode Island, and Aquidneck Island in particular, and worked in concert to protect local military installations. The initial recommendations of the BRAC commission were very bleak for New England; about 25 percent of all losses in the first list of closures were in the region.
That served as a call to action, as Rhode Island leaders joined forces to bolster the state’s defense industry, which has as its cornerstone Naval Station Newport and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
And that effort resulted in a reversal of fortune, as the commission’s final recommendations in 2005 resulted in a number of schools, commands and other operations being moved to Newport, for a net gain of more than 500 jobs at NUWC and the Navy base.
The last of those additions, an $11 million expansion of the Maritime Subsurface Sensor Operations Laboratory at NUWC, was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this week. The 40,000-squarefoot building helped to bring 125 jobs to the area and ensure NUWC stays at the forefront of marine technology for the defense industry.
The region learned from the experience, establishing various industry alliances and legislative commissions to stay on top of developments in the defense industry and best position Rhode Island for continued growth.
The NUWC lab’s expansion and other key additions, including the move of the Officer Training Command and the Navy Supply Corps School to Naval Station Newport, also provide further insurance against future closures.
“Every time they put in something like this, it makes it that much harder (for the Navy) to leave,” Jody Sullivan, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, said during Tuesday’s ceremony.
As anyone who remembers the devastating impact of the Navy’s pullout of the North Atlantic Fleet from Newport in 1973 can attest, that’s very good news for the island and the state.
The Newport Daily News 08/18/2011