It’s not half as bad as it could have been.
Under the worst-case scenario for the future of Naval Base Ventura County, the county’s very own military installation could have lost about 5,000 direct and indirect jobs to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
Under the best-case scenario, every single job would stay local.
Fortunately, NBVC came out on top as the final decisions for the 2005 round of base realignments and closures made by the federal Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, Commission. The base could stand to lose as many as 416 jobs to China Lake, a number one heck of a smaller than 5,000.
“We can breathe a big sigh of relief,” said retired Navy Capt. Jack Dodd, a member of the BRAC Ventura County Task Force, a local group that fought for months to retain as many jobs at the base as possible by researching statistics and other relevant information and distilling it to the commission so it could make an informed decision.
The task force engaged in a lengthy uphill battle to prove that the initial 5,000-job figure not only did not make sense, but that the job loss would cripple operations at the base as well as the local economy.
“We knew all along that the numbers did not make sense and we drove that point home to the BRAC Commission,” Dodd said. “While our goal was to lose zero jobs and we feel empathy for those employees whose work will be moved to China Lake, we are greatly relieved that the Navy has decided on a much smaller number than originally recommended.”
When the BRAC Commission, which is tasked with evaluating the efficiency of military bases all over the country, made its recommendations in late August, it appeared that NVBC would be losing up to 2,250 direct, or individual mission-fund, jobs, and 2,762 indirect, or general-fund, jobs. The numbers did not take into account the additional impact that the job loss would have on local business.
Last month, Navy Vice Adm. Walter B. Massenburg announced that the final count of job losses would be much lower than anticipated. “We’re very pleased with the determination made by the commander,” Dodd said. “The 400-plus jobs going to China Lake are appropriate to go to China Lake.”
Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long said the “flexible language” of the commission’s official recommendation ultimately worked in the task force’s favor. Because the language allowed for flexibility in negotiating the impacts of the loss, the points the task force had worked so hard to drive home were able to be taken into consideration after the recommendations were officially approved by the president. “It’s still disappointing that we’re losing 416 jobs, but it’s a far cry from the 5,000 jobs we heard before,” said Port Hueneme Mayor Anthony Volante.
The 416 jobs will be moved from the weapons and armament station at Point Mugu, but there’s no telling which jobs will be leaving. Other functions that had been pinpointed for removal — among them the base’s sea-test range, range-support aircraft, electronic warfare, and command and control functions — will be staying put. “I think the commission realized there were people in those big numbers that just shouldn’t be moved,” Dodd said. “They recognized that something was really wrong with the numbers.”
Howard Smith, chairman of the Ventura County Economic Development Association, the agency that led the fight to retain jobs, said the actual job loss could have been close to 6,000 because of the ripple effect of the base on the community.
It will take between two and six years to make the move to China Lake, according to Dodd, who said the transition is required to be completed by 2011 and will not likely start before 2008. Additionally, the 416-job figure for the weapons and armament station reflects figures from 2003 — so the actual number of positions currently filled could be less due to natural attrition, downsizing, or other factors. “The exact number of people who will move from Ventura County to China Lake is a small fraction,” he said.
Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels said the county’s success in retaining the jobs rests firmly on the shoulders of the task force. “The quality of the information and technical work provided by the BRAC Task Force was high-level, professional-quality input,” she said. “I’ve heard through the grapevine that several members of the commission were impressed by the work done by the group.”
The group will continue striving to ensure the base grows and remains viable. NBVC could one day be home to an Air National Guard unit or other military missions. “What we do is find out if there are possibilities and then we lobby for them,” Mikels said. The idea is to strengthen the base so its retention in Ventura County won’t again be questioned — and to make sure it stays out of consideration in the next round of BRAC closures.