- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A state commission created to soften the blow of military base closings in Virginia is proposing cooperation over confrontation, a tack that is finding little political support.

The Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities reasons that defense cuts are inevitable and Virginia should seek a say in how they are made.

The report has received a cool reception from Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the state’s congressional delegation, The Virginian-Pilot (https://bit.ly/1lyhWhx ) reported Wednesday.

Then-Gov. Bob McDonnell formed the commission one year ago to counter a process known as BRAC - or Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The issue is important in Virginia because of the military’s huge footprint in Hampton Roads, the Petersburg area and northern Virginia. The state is home to the nation’s largest naval base, in Norfolk, and multiple four-star commands.

The panel is led by retired Adm. John Harvey, the former head of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk. The commission “was pretty much unanimous” in the belief that Virginia is well-positioned for another BRAC and should embrace the process, he said.

“I’d much rather fight an enemy at my front,” Harvey told the newspaper in an interview Tuesday.

The commission cited as an example the Pentagon’s 2010 decision to close Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, which came with little warning.

Brian Coy, a spokesman for McAuliffe, made it clear the governor doesn’t agree with the commission’s premise.

“That’s not a path that the governor has any plans to pursue,” Coy told the newspaper. “He is not of the mind that we should be asking Washington for another round of BRAC. “

The report, while finalized in October, was made public this week. It also offered 20 recommendations to strengthen the state’s relationship with the military.

They include proposals to:

- exempt some members of the military from tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels. The tolls, which went into effect in February, would be “a significant barrier to military personnel and dependents driving across town to work or receive medical services,” the commission said.

- study the Navy’s interest in acquiring Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, which has not previously been made public. The 325-acre state-owned property is used by the Virginia National Guard. A unit based at the Navy’s Dam Neck annex wants to expand local training operations and has identified the adjacent Camp Pendleton as a possible solution.

- give the governor more authority to prevent development around military bases.

- partner with the military to boost private investment in renewable energy sources.

- promote public-private partnerships to improve infrastructure on and around military bases.

Coy said McAuliffe is continuing to review the report.

“This is a report commissioned by his predecessor and finalized before he took office,” he said. “That said, this is a good base for a conversation about how to prepare for the possibility of defense reductions.”


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com

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