Congress is focused on the bottom line – not transforming the military - as it considers military cuts, lobbyists told the executive board of Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow Thursday.
“That’s what going to drive this thing going forward,” Shawn Edwards, of Cassidy and Associates, told the lobby group at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
Edwards said he expected a Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2017, but until then, a “shadow BRAC” was already leading to cuts in the Department of Defense.
“Obviously the issue we’re most concerned about is Base Realignment and Closure or any kind of force reduction at Cherry Point,” Edwards said. “ … It’s difficult to take the amount of money that has come out of the defense budget, reduce the force structure as much as they have and are going to and not recognize the fact that we’re going to have significant overhead capacity.”
Craven County hired Edwards’ firm to lobby Congress and defense officials on behalf of Cherry Point.
“It’s our belief, verified through multiple sources, that the 2015 request will include a BRAC for 2017,” Edwards said. “That solves a lot of problems. That gets you past the current administration, which some people are less fans of President Obama than others, so that gets you past that conundrum. It gets you out of a presidential year, a non-election year, and gets them time to do their due diligence to make sure they have done a proper analysis going forward.”
Edwards said defense officials are getting ready for a capacity analysis in which each military base is asked for overhead costs, usage rates and other data to be used in a BRAC.
He said part of the BRAC process would be development of a threat analysis, force structure plan and infrastructure inventory that could lead to BRAC recommendations in 2016 and final determination by the commission in 2017.
Edwards said that Cassidy and Associates, Pete Rose of The Franklin Partnership and Marc Finlayson of ACT have been working together to take advantage of the “pro-BRAC” window to present Cherry Point and Fleet Readiness Center East in the best possible light to those involved with the process at the Pentagon.
“We think we have done a great job as a team moving forward making sure the delegation’s aware of the strengths and quite frankly the areas of concern,” Edwards said. “We have certainly made a strong case for Cherry Point inside of the building. I don’t think that there is anybody in that facility that is not aware of what goes on at Cherry Point, of what goes on at FRC East, and of the good work that goes on here in the community to make sure it stays that way.”
Barry Rhoads, president of Cassidy and Associates, said of more concern are cuts that don’t require congressional action.
“The more scary thing to me is what I have been calling the shadow BRAC,” he said. “We’re undergoing shadow BRACs as we speak. That’s actually no notification of Congress. They can do certain activities without even asking for permission.”
Edwards said one thing Havelock could do is look at shared services with the base.
“They are looking for ways the local community can help pull on the rope, from energy to sewage to things as simple as library services,” Edwards said.
Edwards said that a concerted effort has been under way to focus on three main opportunities, the funding of the F-35 lift fan test facility at Cherry Point, a new security perimeter fence for the base and other long-term investments like hangars and support facilities for the F-35.
“Our efforts are making sure that that building (the F-35 lift fan test facility) is included in the future year’s defense plan,” he said. “It’s not currently in there.”
Edwards said the base is also looking at about $700 million to build new hangars for the F-35, expected to arrive at the base in 2022.
“That aircraft has unique needs,” he said. “In some cases that might be a bad thing as far as base realignment goes because if we don’t build those hangars we get to avoid that cost. If they build the airplane, then they have got to build the hangars because no other hangars can do the job.”
Edwards said the community has taken the property steps on encroachment issues, but potential wind farm development remains a concern.
“A lot of work has been done by the folks in this room at the local and state level in getting some restrictive covenants in place and some restrictive regulations in place to at least slow down that development,” Edwards said. “This will support not only the base but the ranges.”