Military Joining Forces
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A Republican state senator from Connecticut and another from Rhode Island are joining forces in an effort to mobilize opposition to any effort to close the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton. State Sen. Cathy Cook, R-Mystic, and Rhode Island state Sen. Sen. Dennis L. Algiere represent districts whose residents depend greatly on jobs provided by the sub base and the nearby defense industries, including Electric Boat, which employs about 15,000 people at its shipyard in Groton and facilities in North Kingstown, R.I. The federal government also operates an underwater laboratory in Newport, R.I. and the Naval War College. The Pentagon has requested a new round of base closings in 2005, and the senators are concerned the submarine base will appear on the list. It was recommended for closure in the early 1990s, but was eventually taken off the list amid pressure from local groups. Cook and Algiere, the Republican minority leader of the Rhode Island state Senate, sent a letter to Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri Tuesday, urging the Republican governors to "begin a discourse between the states" on how to keep the defense industry thriving. Cook said she wanted to reach out to the governors before they met later this month at the Republican National Convention. The two state lawmakers said they're willing meet with the governors and explain the economic importance of keeping the Navy in southern New England. Algiere's district borders Connecticut. "Clearly, anything that happens in New London County (Connecticut) would affect us in Washington County and the entire state," said Algiere, adding how many of his constituents work for defense contractors or at government facilities. Algiere said he plans ask Carcieri to meet with Rell. Rell said she is willing to do all she can to keep the military installations in Connecticut. Earlier this year, the legislature appropriated $350,000 to fund a state coalition that is coming up with arguments to keep the bases in tact. The state of Rhode Island has created a similar organization. "The governor recognizes that assets like the Groton sub base are key parts of our local and regional economies, and she stands by the state of Connecticut's financial commitment to fighting any effort to close or reduce the military's presence at state bases," said Adam Liegeot, a spokesman for Rell. Carcieri's office did not have any immediate comment on the letter. The last round of base closings and consolidations occurred in 1995. Since that time, the submarine base in Groton has diversified. It is home to several kinds of submarines, naval schools and military units from other branches of service, Cook said. She said that local supporters, who are already mobilized, have learned that you can't persuade federal officials to keep a base using only economic arguments. The Pentagon has more than half a million facilities around the world. That includes research laboratories, test facilities, educational institutions, training ranges, troop housing, hospitals and administrative offices. The secretary of defense is required by law to submit a list of recommended closures and realignments to an independent commission by next May 16. The commission then reports its decisions to the president by Sept. 8, 2005, and the decisions become law 45 days later unless Congress enacts a joint resolution rejecting them in whole, not in part.