The USS Maine arrives at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, June 6, 2000. The Trident ballistic submarine was on hand for the bicentennial celebration of the nation's oldest continually operational shipyard.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has advised that Portsmouth Naval Shipyard be closed in his May 13 list of recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Located on the island of Kittery, Maine, the shipyard has been in operation since 1800, building first warships and later submarines. In recent years, the Navy facility has been used primarily for nuclear submarine maintenance. Faced with the threat of closing, the community is preparing to fight. Below, word from some of its members.
Dick Ingram President of the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce
My name is Dick Ingram. I'm the president of the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce and I'm proud to welcome you here. I'm sort of the face of the local business community. I'm looking at one of the largest employers in the area threatened with shutting down. We're talking about nearly 5,000 workers. In this area, that is significant. It's also a $500,000 economic engine for this region. Local car dealers, convenience store owners, banks, cultural institutions -- it all goes away. We would struggle mightily without that here.
President of the Metal Traders Council
This October, I will have been here 30 years. We used to build our submarines and our job now is to repair, maintain and modernize the nuclear submarine fleet. Unfortunately, right now they are cutting up submarines at a faster rate than they are building them. The fact that the Cold War is over doesn't mean that we will not need nuclear deterrence in the future. It doesn't mean that we don't need to defend ourselves as a nation. Because we certainly do. What is at stake? Well, the obvious. Our jobs. Maybe not so obvious, our trust and faith in the government.
I've worked at the shipyard for 23 years. I decided to apply at the shipyard because my father was working there at the time. My grandfather had also worked there because he thought he would help the country by coming here and building the submarines. There's only four shipyards left. I would hate to see any of them close, because I think they are all necessary. We are at war right now. So I think it is going to get worse before it gets better. I'm afraid we are going to go from Iraq to maybe Iran, to who knows, Korea. I don't think closing military bases right now, especially one of four nuclear shipyards, is smart business.
If we don't end up on the list, we want to fight to make sure we continue staying off the list. If we do end up on the list, then we are in for the fight of our lives to get ourselves off that list, to prove that we are a very valuable asset. It is a stressful time for sure.
I was on the 1993 Base Closure Commission, referred to as BRAC, a term I don't like, but everybody is familiar with it. If the shipyard were to close -- and I want to go on record as saying that I very very much hope it does not close -- it will be economically painful. Personally painful. But if it does, time marches on. We have some bases that really don't serve a purpose any more -- they are not consistent with what the military is finding itself doing. I think that the base closure process is an extremely effective way to cut down on excess base capacity. It works. It may be painful, but it gets the job done.