Thursday, October 14, 2004

Decision on isle Navy
carrier due in ’05

The civilian head of the Navy says a decision on basing a nuclear aircraft carrier at Pearl Harbor might not be made until spring, possibly after the next round of base closures.

Congress approved the defense authorization bill over the weekend, which allows the Pentagon to close more military bases.

A House-Senate conference committee on the defense bill agreed to let the base closings proceed. President Bush had threatened to veto the defense bill if it delayed base closings. In May the Pentagon will submit to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission and Congress a list of bases it has selected for closure or realignment.

During a one-day stop here, Navy Secretary Gordon England said a decision on whether to relocate a carrier at Pearl Harbor is "a work in progress."

Asked when to expect such a decision, England said "sometime late spring or summer of next year."

Both retiring Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Forces commander, and Adm. Walter Doran, who leads the Pacific Fleet, have endorsed basing a carrier in Hawaii rather than Guam.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Gov. Linda Lingle said the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, which closed in 1999, could house the jets and the 2,500 aviators and air crews that are needed to support a carrier.

Last October, the Navy began a $1.8 million internal study on what additional improvements would be needed to home-port a carrier with 3,000 sailors and an air wing with nearly six dozen aircraft.

Yesterday, a Pacific Fleet spokesman said that study could be completed late this year.

England also said it is his understanding that Fargo will continue indefinitely as head of the Pacific Command after Air Force Gen. Gregory Martin, under congressional pressure, withdrew his name as Fargo's successor last week.

Inouye has advocated that Fargo's successor be an admiral since the command is "traditionally the domain of the Navy."

Although England said the boss of the Pacific Command heads all military services, he acknowledged it has been headed by an admiral for a long time.

"We've been comfortable with it," England said. "There have been a lot of relationships, so I can certainly understand the senator's view on the matter, but it's really the decision of the secretary of defense."

Fargo had planned to retire in January and join Hawaiian Electric Industries as a board member. The Chamber Commerce of Hawaii still plans to honor him at a Nov. 3 reception at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.



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