Yesterday Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith told us the Puget Sound has a good chance of coming off relatively well under the new defense strategy President Obama disclosed yesterday, but I didn’t have time to explain the differences in their perspectives.
Both are defense heavyweights on Capitol Hill, with Smith from Tacoma serving as the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee and Dicks from Belfair taking the role as ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations.
Dicks feels the region’s Navy resources will remain a priority under Obama’s plan because it maintains a focus on Pacific threats. He saw cause for concern in the Army’s overall reduction plan, which would draw down active-duty forces from 570,000 to 490,000. That’s bound to lead to fewer soldiers at bases all over the country, and likely at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“There’s going to be a reduction in overall personnel in the Army, and you don’t know how that will play out,” Dicks said.
Smith told us Lewis-McChord is in good shape because the Army has been consolidating resources at large bases and pulling out of smaller ones. He thinks further realignment could lead to the Army at least sustaining Lewis-McChord at its present size.
Smith foresees some shuffling of the Navy’s Puget Sound resources. For example, there might be an effort to dock different ships at the Everett home port instead of an aircraft carrier.
Washington lawmakers want to make a case to have the next generation of Navy aircraft assigned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Failing to do so could lead to a contraction at that base. State lawmakers are also trying to persuade the Air Force to station new refueling tankers at Fairchild Air Force Base.
“An intensified focus on the Asia-Pacific means that Northwest Washington will only continue to grow as a strategically important center for our Navy. Naval Station Everett and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island are already key components of the Asia-Pacific mission,” Stevens said in a press release yesterday. “Even as we slow growth at the Department of Defense, I will continue working to make sure these bases are properly resourced, including by bringing the P-8A Poseidons to Whidbey.”