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Netter To Advise Florida On Base Closures…New Round To Yield More Savings

Retired Admiral To Advise Florida On Base Closures

March 23, 2004
Copyright ©2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A retired admiral who spearheaded a new Navy training strategy that relies heavily on several Florida bases was hired Tuesday to lead efforts to prevent the state's 21 military installations from being closed or downsized.

Gov. Jeb Bush and his Advisory Council on Base Realignment and Closures selected the RJ Natter & Associates-Piper Rudnick Team to lead Florida's base-protection campaign.

The consulting group will be headed by retired Adm. Robert J. Natter, former commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces.

Other prominent figures on the team include William Cohen, a former Republican U.S. senator from Maine who served as secretary of defense in the Clinton Administration; former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and retired Air Force Gen. Joe Ralston, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Before retiring last year, Natter devised the Navy's Training Resource Strategy for using facilities in the Southeast United States to replace a bombing and gunnery range on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico. The Vieques range was closed last year after a series of protests that followed the death of a civilian security guard and injuries to others from errant bombs in 1999.

Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle and its weapons ranges in the Gulf of Mexico are key components of the new training strategy. Other Florida installations involved include the Avon Park and Pinecastle ranges, Pensacola Naval Air Station and Key West Naval Air Station.

"I know how important the military and defense related sectors are to Florida, but I also understand how valuable Florida's assets are to our national defense," Natter said.

The firm will be paid $50,000 a month. The federal government in 2005 is planning another round of base closures and realignments. Natter's job will be to persuade federal officials that Florida's 21 installations and three unified commands are too important to be closed or reduced in size and should, instead, gain new missions.

"I have had the great privilege of working with Admiral Natter since 2001 and can attest to his personal understanding of the military value and unique assets presented by Florida's installations to defense preparedness," Bush said in a news release.

The consulting team's responsibilities will include coordinating community-level base-protection efforts, working with Florida's congressional delegation and helping make the state's case before the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

The state advisory panel, co-chaired by Bank of America president Timothy Laney and retired Air Force Gen. J.B. Davis called for proposals from consultants interested in representing Florida.

The winning proposal includes a commitment from Natter, a native of Trussville, Ala., to direct his efforts from Florida on a full time basis. He began his 41-year military career at 17 by enlisting in the Naval Reserve as a seaman recruit a year before attending the U.S. Naval Academy.

Base Closure Round To Yield More Savings Than Previous Rounds, Expert Says

By Morris Fraser, Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach

June 3, 2004
Copyright ©2004 Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. All rights reserved.

Northwest Florida Daily News (KRTBN)

Jun. 3--The upcoming Base Realignment and Closure round will save more money per year than the previous four rounds combined, a member of the governor's BRAC advisory council said Wednesday.

Susan Story, who is also president and CEO of Gulf Power, told the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County that the 2005 BRAC process will save $8 billion a year in military costs. In the previous four rounds-- 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995-- the total annual saving was $7 billion.

The figure is based on an estimated 20 percent to 25 percent savings as a result of BRAC.

But the Pentagon's recommended cuts shouldn't come at the expense of Northwest Florida, Story said.

"Military and defense is the third-largest part of the economy in the state of Florida behind tourism and agriculture," she said.

"The six installations in Northwest Florida include the largest base in the world, and they account for $9.7 billion. In Okaloosa County, there is $2.9 billion in spending, and that's 71 percent of the economy."

Story and retired Adm. Robert Natter, recently hired as liaison for Florida to Washington, D.C., on BRAC issues, cited the synergy of military bases in the Panhandle.

"Eglin, Tyndall, Hurlburt Field and NAS Pensacola and Whiting Field all work together," Story said. "We saw that in December and again in February and March with the exercises."

"Eglin could have said they were doing testing and told us to go elsewhere," said Natter, whose last job in the Navy was finding a replacement for the Vieques training site in Puerto Rico. "But they saw the value in working together."

Natter pointed out that Florida is ahead of most other states in working to protect military bases within its borders. "I was asked to work with South Texas (after he signed on with Florida), so they are just beginning to work, and I know California is just starting up."

Story said an early start is vital, even though a final decision on the future of military bases is more than a year off.

She said a BRAC committee to explore bases is scheduled to be appointed in March 2005 and must be confirmed by the Senate by May 16. A final up-or-down list of affected bases will go to the president by Sept. 8, and a final decision must be made by Oct. 20.

"We have to get a head start," she said.

Story pointed out that military criteria for BRAC include the capacity for fighting and training, availability of space in the air, on land and on sea, mobilization capability and the cost of operations.

Secondary criteria include the cost of closure, environmental concerns, impact to the community and affect on community infrastructure.

In all these areas, she said, Northwest Florida ranks well.

Story said Florida has passed a law that requires the military to take part in any community encroachment issue.

"We won't see as much effect from that as elsewhere, because we already work together," she said.

In answer to a question from the floor concerning high rises near Eglin Air Force Base, Wayne Nelms, military liaison for the governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, said testing and training include line-of-sight radar that can be impeded by tall structures.

Natter said his job will be "to make doggone sure we enable (the BRAC committee) to make wise decisions" on closures.

He also argued against any delay in the BRAC procedure to 2007 or 2008, which has been suggested.

"Florida is in the best position it could ever want to be" to survive the process "because of training and the war now," he said. "We don't need to prolong the pain."

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