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Navy eliminating top post at Groton submarine base

By Jennifer McDermott

Publication: theday.com

Published August 21. 2013 5:00PM   Updated August 22. 2013 12:47PM
Sequestration means Submarine Group Two will report to Norfolk

Groton — The attack submarines on the East Coast soon will report to the submarine force commander in Norfolk, Va., instead of to an officer in Groton.

Rear Adm. Kenneth M. Perry, who is responsible for all of the attack submarines on the East Coast, likely will be the last Submarine Group Two commander as the Navy cuts, consolidates or reduces in rank 35 rear admiral and vice admiral positions.

The Naval Submarine Base was targeted by the Pentagon in past rounds of base closings, and nearly closed in 2005. But U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he does not think the Navy's decision to cut the Groton position will affect the base's fate in any future base closure process.

Attack submarines on the East Coast will report through their squadron commanders to the submarine force commander in Norfolk in the same way the submarines on the West Coast report to the Pacific submarine force commander in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman, said Wednesday.

The number of submarines located in Groton and the role they perform is not affected by this decision, he said, adding that the group command itself will cease to exist.

The Navy has more senior officers in Navy jobs than the statutory maximum of 162. The restructuring, which was approved by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will bring the total senior officer jobs in the Navy to 151. The Navy will save several million dollars through these reductions because it will not have to pay for salaries, staffs, travel and other costs associated with the positions, Perry said.

At least 61 additional naval officers serve in joint roles across the military.

The Navy began working on the plans after former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2011 called for trimming the senior ranks across the services by more than 100 officers to create a more agile, efficient organization and to save money.

The changes, which are underway in phases, are expected to be complete by fiscal year 2017. At Group Two, the group commander position should be eliminated by fiscal year 2015, Perry said.

Courtney said he does not think the restructuring will be an issue for the base in the future because installations are judged on their military value during the BRAC process, not on whether an admiral is located there.

"It doesn't make sense that that necessarily adds to military value and that is always the test for BRAC," he said.

Courtney said he spoke with Rear Adm. Perry while the idea was being discussed and Perry assured him the functional role Groton plays would not change.

"It would be a more streamlined command in terms of the Atlantic seaboard and the submarine fleet," Courtney said. "Having heard Secretary Gates forcefully advocate for this, it didn't surprise me. This was the type of savings the Pentagon has been advocating for."

Congress rejected the Department of Defense's recent requests for another BRAC, but defense officials have said they will continue to ask.

The Pentagon is figuring out how to trim the budget if the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration remain in place. The cuts are projected to total $1.2 trillion to government agencies over 10 years. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last month that the military and civilian staff in major DOD offices and headquarters would be cut by 20 percent.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark E. Ferguson said in a statement about the restructuring that the Navy's adjustments prepare the service to absorb future reductions in headquarters and staff due to sequestration. He said the Navy would submit plans to eliminate another six flag officer positions in the fiscal 2015 budget.

"This reflects our commitment to working more efficiently and cost-effectively in this resource-constrained environment without putting our war-fighting capabilities at risk," Ferguson said.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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