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While efforts by the administration to undertake another round of military base closings have gained no traction in Congress, state and regional leaders are taking the right approach by remaining vigilant when it comes to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called for two rounds of base closings, in 2013 and 2015, as he seeks to slow the growth in defense spending and realize a peace dividend as the nation emerges from two long-term wars. But Washington lawmakers have shown no interest in authorizing the base closing review process, fearful that it could put a bull's eye on military facilities in their respective states and districts.
Yet as the nation confronts soaring deficits, the pressure to close bases with low military value will grow. That is why Connecticut needs to keep making the case for the value of the Groton facility and not let its guard down.
Connecticut's Office of Military Affairs, formed after the last attempt to close the base in 2005, has survived budget cuts and remains active not only in working to politically protect the base, but promoting the state's defense industry. The lobbying firm hired by the state, Mercury/Clark and Weinstock, remains active in looking out for Connecticut's military interests in Washington, having been paid more than $200,000 since 2009, according to the Connecticut Mirror. That is a modest investment when measured against the potential economic devastation of a base closing or major defense layoffs.
In an unprecedented action, Connecticut has invested $11 million to assist the federal government in improving base facilities, and another $39 million in bond authorization remains set aside.
Locally, the Subase Coalition, formed to fight the last attempt to close the base, is again active and planning.
The state and region were caught off guard the last time the Pentagon targeted the Groton facility. It remains in the collective interest to make sure that will not happen again.