Connecticut Cheers As Base Kept Open

The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 24, 2005; 12:33 PM

GROTON, Conn. -- State officials expressed a mix of joy and relief Wednesday as the national base closing commission voted to keep open the Navy's oldest submarine base here, saving thousands of jobs and a cornerstone of Connecticut's economy.

"Yahoo!" said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. "Submarine base New London lives, and I think that it will live forever."

The commission voted 7-1 with one abstention to keep the base open, culminating a fierce lobbying effort by Connecticut officials since the base appeared on the Pentagon's proposed list of closings.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she was in tears when she heard the decision while in her car.

"We did it! We did it!" Rell said.

Just before casting his vote, Chairman Anthony Principi said the submarine base couldn't be replaced. "The New London sub base is truly the center of excellence," he said.

Economists have said closing the base would devastate the state's economy and threaten 31,000 jobs statewide, including more than 8,000 at the base itself and thousands of others who do subcontracting or provide support for the facility and its residents.

It is the Navy's oldest submarine base, established in 1868.

Local and regional officials had argued that the Pentagon's recommendation to close the base was flawed, citing national security concerns, submarine force requirements, environmental cleanup costs, personnel needs and detailed reports challenging the Navy's projected cost savings.

In addition, lawmakers took issue with the Navy's assertion that an environmental cleanup would cost about $23 million and Pentagon officials last month acknowledged it may be too early to tell what the actual cost would be.

The Pentagon's base closure plan is the first such effort in a decade to reconfigure stateside military bases. The Groton base made the proposed closure list in 1993, but was saved after an effort by legislators, business owners and residents.