Com­man­dant speaks about readi­ness, traf­fic

BRAC not cur­rently on the ta­ble, rear ad­mi­ral tells group

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com

In an event hosted by The Patux­ent Part­ner­ship on Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the South­ern Mary­land Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, Rear Adm. Charles Rock, com­man­dant of Naval District Wash­ing­ton, talked about the Navy’s readi­ness, as well as traf­fic is­sues in the county.

To set the scene of where the Navy is to­day, Rock bor­rowed an anal­ogy from Adm. John Richard­son, chief of naval op­er­a­tions, to de­scribe the chal­lenges the Navy faces.

“He de­scribes it as a foot­ball game that starts at the end of the Cold War, if you will,” Rock said. Thirty years later into half­time, “we are win­ning 35-0. Ev­ery­body was happy.”

As ev­ery­body was sit­ting around in the locker room, cheer­ing and drink­ing Ga­torade, he said, some­one came rush­ing in and said the third quar­ter had started. The team went back to the field to find the score to be 35-28, not know­ing what hap­pened.

Af­ter the Soviet Navy went away, “we didn’t have any com­pe­ti­tion,” Rock said. “Our friends in China re­ally weren’t com­ing on the scene in terms of be­ing a global power, even a re­gional power.”

What hap­pened next is wak­ing up 30 years later, re­al­iz­ing that “es­sen­tially we were asleep at the switch,” he said.

Right now the Navy is com­prised of about 274 ships and 320,000 sailors, and Rock said stud­ies in­side and out­side of the Navy have in­di­cated the right

size would be about 350 to 355 ships.

“The re­quire­ments cer­tainly out­pace the Navy’s re­sources and abil­ity to meet those re­quire­ments,” he said. “And they man­i­fest them­selves in many ways,” in­clud­ing on the backs of sailors and civil­ians who are stressed to try to keep up, and in readi­ness chal­lenges.

Not­ing the Navy is bring­ing 10 dead sailors from Sin­ga­pore home, Rock said he doesn’t “want to make the di­rect con­nec­tion to readi­ness and un­der­fund­ing to what’s hap­pen­ing, be­cause we just don’t know.”

On Aug. 21, 10 sailors on the USS John S. McCain guided-mis­sile de­stroyer died in a col­li­sion with an oil tanker near Sin­ga­pore — the fourth ac­ci­dent the Navy has had in the Pa­cific this year.

But “we got some real chal­lenges,” Rock said.

Later, one of the ques­tions brought up by sev­eral at­ten­dees is how Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion in­tends to help ad­dress the traf­fic prob­lem in the county.

“In terms of the im­pact on the com­mu­nity as a civil­ian, I can tell you that I can­not leave my home be­tween 3 and 6 p.m. to get any­where be­cause of the traf­fic, and that’s a com­mon con­cern around here,” said Mar­cia Green­berg, who lives in St. Mary’s City. “It’s re­ally just cre­ated such bot­tle­necks that it’s be­com­ing a source of ten­sion and ir­ri­ta­tion.”

Green­berg sug­gested look­ing into pos­si­bil­i­ties like car-shar­ing plat­forms and get­ting lessons from other ar­eas that could ap­ply lo­cally.

Oth­ers asked if the Navy is will­ing to help lo­cal and state gov­ern­ments to de­velop mass tran­sit in the area, or come up with in­cen­tives that could lessen traf­fic flows com­ing in and out of the base.

In re­sponse, Rock said he is open to sug­ges­tions and doesn’t want to take any dis­cus­sions off the ta­ble.

“The source of the bot­tle­neck­ing and trans­porta­tion chal­lenges is the Navy, so I think the Navy’s got to be a part of that so­lu­tion, part of that dis­cus­sion,” and ini­ti­at­ing that di­a­logue, he said, not­ing the com­mu­nity has his com­mit­ment to help min­i­mize the in­con­ve­nience for folks who are go­ing about their daily lives.

One po­ten­tial so­lu­tion could be tied to a ques­tion Todd Mor­gan, a St. Mary’s County com­mis­sioner, raised on shared ser­vices.

Mor­gan (R) asked for Rock’s opinion on shared ser­vices and how much the Navy would be will­ing to sup­port those shared ser­vice pro­grams.

“That’s ex­actly where we need to go. Ex­actly. I just don’t know how to fig­ure it out,” Rock an­swered.

He said po­ten­tial part­ner­ships with lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and busi­nesses could pro­vide im­por­tant, but not in­her­ently gov­ern­men­tal, ser­vices like child care, chapels, gyms and hous­ing.

“To your point on shared fa­cil­i­ties, I’m not sure why I’m in the busi­ness of own­ing and main­tain­ing build­ings,” he said. “So there is a bet­ter way. I just don’t know how to get af­ter it in a mean­ing­ful way.”

Rock was also asked about ways to en­hance the county’s pre­pared­ness for the fed­eral base re­align­ment and clo­sure process, known as BRAC. Since 2005, there hasn’t been a BRAC.

“I don’t have any BRAC-proof se­crets,” Rock said. “Of course, you know BRAC is not cur­rently on the ta­ble.”

His ad­vice was to “keep do­ing what you do” to build a link be­tween the base and the com­mu­nity so tight that pulling away would make a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact.

Con­sid­er­ing Pax River’s his­tory, Rock said he thinks the base is in a strong po­si­tion.

STAFF PHOTO BY DANDAN ZOU

Rear Adm. Charles Rock speaks about Navy readi­ness and traf­fic is­sue Wed­nes­day morn­ing dur­ing an event hosted by The Patux­ent Part­ner­ship at the South­ern Mary­land Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter in Cal­i­for­nia.

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