Mayport, BRAC & TRICARE Update; Yesterday the Chief Of Naval Operations while talking to a group in Jacksonville, stated the Navy was investigating ways to speed up the move of 3 Norfolk ships to Naval Station Mayport. Present Navy plans call for the homeporting of an ARG, 3 amphibious ships, at Mayport in 2015. CNO hopes to have the ships arrive in 2014, which will include 2000 sailors and their families. The Secretary of the Navy has previously stated the move will bring $75 million a year to the Mayport ship repair industry. (The CNO also reconfirmed his support to homeport a CVN at Mayport) MAYPORT GAIN, NORFOLK LOSS.
There has been a lot of debate between Congress and DOD over the DOD request for 2 BRAC’s, 2013 and 2015. There has been strong opposition to BRAC in the House Armed Services Committee. (Navy Times 21 March) Senator Claire McCaskill chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which also has jurisdiction over military installations, said she is willing to allow the closing of U.S. military bases overseas. But Not Domestic bases. Unless the Pentagon can change her mind, her announcement seals the fate of the DOD BRAC proposal. DOD representatives have said, they will move ahead on existing authorities “Installations below 300 civilian personnel” which can be reduced outside the BRAC process. It is doubtful that there will be a BRAC in 2013.
The TRICARE debate rages on in Congress. Navy Times (9 April) reported that Pentagon officials told lawmakers that if they refuse to support DOD proposals to cap basic pay raises, reduce retirement benefits and raise out-of-pocket health care rates, the Pentagon will be forced to cut about 60,000 troops. They said “If Congress does not provide us with needed support; we will face a major problem that would jeopardize our defense strategy”. Vice Admiral Ryan the president of MOAA (Military Officers Association of America) wrote,’ Breach of Faith’, an article that said the Pentagon should get its own house in order before breaking the promises to America’s troops. He said “some feel military benefits should be ‘civilianized’ to be in line with nonmilitary positions. I’d like to know what civilian occupations could be comparable to those requiring every-increasing months away from home in situations ranging from health-threatening to life threatening.” DOD health reductions are a very important concern to a large portion of the local population; it would be a BREACH of Faith if the current DOD proposals are approved.
Congressman Randy Forbes has announced that he and other lawmakers will travel to Military across the country to discuss “Defend our Defenders”. The tour will travel to Military bases across the country to both inform the public and hear about the effects of a penalty scheduled to occur if Congress fails to agree on $1.2 Trillion in deficit reduction. The Congressman presently plans to have a meeting “Defend the Defenders” locally on 14 May.