Mil­i­tary af­fairs chief reap­pointed

Bob Ross was first named to of­fice in 2009

The Day - - REGION - By JULIA BERGMAN Day Staff Writer

Gov. Ned La­mont reap­pointed Bob Ross to serve as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state’s Of­fice of Mil­i­tary Af­fairs, con­tin­u­ing his role as an ad­vo­cate for Con­necti­cut’s mil­i­tary per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies, and as a li­ai­son on de­fense is­sues.

“He is highly re­garded by in­dus­try of­fi­cials, de­fense work­ers, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment lead­ers, and mil­i­tary fam­i­lies. I look for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing with him on projects to sup­port the growth of jobs in this crit­i­cal sec­tor, es­pe­cially in the south­east­ern re­gion of our state,” La­mont said in a state­ment.

Ross, a for­mer Navy sur­face war­fare of­fi­cer, was first ap­pointed to the po­si­tion in 2009 by then-Gov. Jodi Rell. He was reap­pointed by Rell’s suc­ces­sor, Dan­nel Mal­loy.

U.S. Rep. Joe Court­ney, D-2nd Dis­trict, called La­mont’s reap­point­ment of Ross a “smart move.”

“Bob will bring con­ti­nu­ity to one of Con­necti­cut’s most im­por­tant eco­nomic sec­tors — de­fense. His work boost­ing the sub base’s mil­i­tary value over the last ten years, has re­duced its vul­ner­a­bil­ity to a BRAC as well as sup­port­ing the Con­necti­cut Na­tional Guard makes him em­i­nently qual­i­fied to con­tinue his work,” the con­gress­man said in a state­ment. “Bob is unique — a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee who has served in the last three ad­min­is­tra­tions. That speaks vol­umes about the qual­ity of his work.”

The Of­fice of Mil­i­tary Af­fairs was es­tab­lished in 2007 to co­or­di­nate a statewide re­sponse to any fu­ture pro­pos­als to close the Naval Sub­ma­rine Base. The base nar­rowly es­caped clo­sure in 2005 dur­ing a process by the Pen­tagon known as base re­align­ment and clo­sure, or BRAC.

The Pen­tagon re­peat­edly has asked for a new BRAC round but there hasn’t been an ap­petite for it in Congress. Ross, the pri­mary li­ai­son to the Con­necti­cut con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion on mil­i­tary and de­fense mat­ters, said fed­eral law­mak­ers still have a bad taste in their mouths from the 2005 BRAC round, given it cost much more than ex­pected.

Ex­perts say, if there is an­other round, it likely wouldn’t hap­pen un­til 2021, when it would be more po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent be­cause it’s the year af­ter the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Ross said he’s not op­posed to an­other BRAC round be­cause the sub base is “prop­erly pre­pared” to with­stand such an eval­u­a­tion. He said the Pen­tagon’s strat­egy likely will be dif­fer­ent than in the past. The fo­cus will be more on prop­erly align­ing mil­i­tary forces than on sav­ing money.

“Given what’s go­ing on in the world right now with Rus­sia and China re­ally build­ing up their un­der­sea forces, it would defy logic for the U.S. to close any sub­ma­rine base any­where,” he said.

Qual­ity of life is­sues

The sec­re­taries of the Navy, Air Force and Army have told Congress that the next time there’s a BRAC, they want the qual­ity of pub­lic schools around mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions and state li­cen­sure rec­i­proc­ity — that is, the ease with which mil­i­tary spouses can ob­tain li­censes to do spe­cial­ized work in the state — to be in­cluded as part of eval­u­a­tion cri­te­ria. These are qual­ity-of-life is­sues that can im­pact whether some­one stays in the mil­i­tary, Ross said.

Ross said he’s not wor­ried about the qual­ity of the pub­lic schools in south­east­ern Con­necti­cut. Lo­cal Navy and Coast Guard of­fi­cials, school su­per­in­ten­dents and Ross meet monthly to dis­cuss is­sues af­fect­ing mil­i­tary chil­dren.

But the li­cen­sure is­sue is “com­pli­cated,” he said. Con­necti­cut is one of more than 20 states to adopt a rule that al­lows spouses of ac­tive-duty ser­vice mem­bers to ap­ply for a tem­po­rary law li­cense valid for up to three years with­out hav­ing to take the bar exam, for ex­am­ple. It took two years to craft the lan­guage and gar­ner sup­port to make it hap­pen in Con­necti­cut.

Part of the rea­son Ross is so con­fi­dent the base could with­stand an­other BRAC round is the var­i­ous projects, on­go­ing and com­pleted, to “in­crease the mil­i­tary value” of the base.

The state now has funded 10 projects through the $40 mil­lion set aside by the Con­necti­cut Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2007 for in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments on the base.

One of the more re­cent projects, the con­struc­tion of an elec­tric mi­cro­grid, which will al­low the base to gen­er­ate its own elec­tric­ity to main­tain key op­er­a­tions in the event of a dis­rup­tion or power out­age, should be com­plete and op­er­a­tional by Oc­to­ber, Ross said. The state con­trib­uted $6 mil­lion to­ward the pro­ject.

Also ex­pected to be com­pleted this year is the de­mo­li­tion of the marina ad­ja­cent to the con­do­mini­ums on Scotch Cap Road in Water­ford. The marina, which has never been ac­tive, is across from the piers where sub­marines dock at the base.

Fu­ture at­tack sub­marines will be longer than the cur­rent boats due to an 85-foot sec­tion be­ing added to im­prove pay­load ca­pac­ity. Those sub­marines will need a wider turn­ing basin, hence the need to de­mol­ish the marina, which has long been a con­cern for the Navy for se­cu­rity rea­sons.

The state gave Water­ford $525,000 to cover the costs of the pro­ject and the back taxes that were owed on the prop­erty by the pre­vi­ous own­ers. The town of Water­ford now owns the land. First Select­man Dan Stew­ard said the town soon will be put­ting out a re­quest for pro­posal for the work, and he hopes the de­mo­li­tion will be com­plete by this sum­mer.

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