Naval Base Kitsap gets green light

All the Navy is waiting on now is Congressional approval to merge Kitsap County’s two largest bases under a single command.

Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England on Monday approved the merger of Naval Station Bremerton and Naval Submarine Base Bangor under the Naval Base Kitsap banner after a year’s worth of planning by Navy Region Northwest leaders.

If approved, the changes would happen as soon as June.

“This merger allows us to cut back on management overhead and be better stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Rear Adm. Len Hering, commanding officer of Navy Region Northwest. “These savings Navy-wide will help us to fund a 21st-century Navy with the capabilities necessary to counter the continuously changing threats we face around the world.”

The merger will affect approximately 30 upper-level management positions through consolidation, saving an estimated $1-2 million annually.

Most of the cuts involve Navy personnel, though 10 civilians will be offered jobs elsewhere.

Further cuts could be considered in the future to increase efficiency, according to information put out on Tuesday.

“This new base will be manned appropriately to ensure base support functions are carried out at every location,” states a Navy document. “There is no desire to create duplicate command structures in any fashion. The whole point is to reduce current redundancies.”

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Naval Magazine Indian Island near Port Townsend are not affected by the change.

Keyport, which became part of Bangor in the late 1990s, will be part of Naval Base Kitsap.

Capt. Douglass Biesel, commanding officer at Bangor, will oversee operations after the merger is approved. Capt. T.J. Dargan, commander at Bremer-ton, will serve as deputy commander in charge of activities at Bremerton until his tour of duty ends in 2005.

The Navy has been cutting back on its $37 billion in annual personnel costs in an effort to free up funding to increase the size of its fleet from 292 ships to 375 ships.

According to reports, 7,900 personnel cuts Navy-wide could equal $254 million in savings in fiscal year 2005.

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