as Missouri port
Inouye calls it 'nitpicking'Star-Bulletin staff and wire
and says the battleship's home
will be Pearl Harbor
A new federal report suggests that the city of Bremerton, Wash., unfairly lost its bid for the USS Missouri to Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks has asked the Navy to reopen the host-site competition.
The General Accounting Office found significant problems in the way the Navy chose Hawaii as the display site for the historic battleship. In fact, the report says, the city of Bremerton won the competition for the Missouri based on the Navy's original criteria for making the decision.
But after new criteria were added in the final stages of the competition, the Hawaii group's application received the highest score and knocked Bremerton out of first place, the GAO report said.
However, Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who was instrumental in the Navy's decision to homeport the battleship in Pearl Harbor, today said there is no question the Missouri's permanent berth will be in his state.
"It will go to Pearl," Inouye said.
The Hawaii Democrat said Dicks requested to meet with him in Inouye's Washington, D.C., office this afternoon to discuss the matter.
Inouye said the GAO report was a "little skewed. You can't fault the Navy. This is just a lot of nitpicking."
Hawaii's USS Missouri Memorial Association won the right to have the ship on display over Bremerton, San Francisco and Long Beach, Calif.
"The Navy did not do a good job in communicating its additional requirements to the applicants," the GAO report said.
The Pentagon did not challenge the findings.
Now, Dicks, D-Wash., has sent a letter to Navy Secretary John H. Dalton asking him to reopen the selection process -- this time using an independent panel that includes veterans' representatives.
"It looks like (the original process) was fatally flawed," Dicks told the Sun of Bremerton.
Congress, by law, has only a few more days to approve or disapprove the Navy's decision to award the Mighty Mo to Hawaii.
The Hawaii group plans to tow the battleship to Pearl Harbor in May 1998.
Roy Yee, director of the Hawaii organization, said his group is not deterred by the report and is proceeding with plans to move the Missouri to Pearl Harbor. The group plans to moor the battleship near the USS Arizona Memorial honoring those who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
"I'm not holding back. I haven't been directed otherwise," he said.
Russ Nickerson, president of Bremerton's Missouri on the Mainland committee, said, "I'm happy as a lark" with the report's findings and Dicks' request to reopen the competition.
The USS Missouri, the site of Japan's surrender in World War II, has spent most of the past 52 years in Bremerton and is the city's top tourist attraction at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Other cities were invited to compete as host sites for the ship after it was stricken from the naval register in January 1995.
According to the GAO report, the Navy spent many months working with five groups from the four cities to help them develop their proposals under the original criteria.
Bremerton's score under those criteria was 8.8 points, out of a possible 10 -- slightly higher than the Hawaii group's score of 8.7. San Francisco scored 7.0, and Long Beach scored 5.9, the GAO report said.
But in the last days of the site-selection process, the Navy suddenly announced two more criteria and gave all the applicants only two weeks to explain how they would meet them.
The applicants weren't told that the new criteria -- public affairs benefit and historical significance -- would be worth 75 percent of the final score and the original criteria would be worth only 25 percent, the GAO report said.
Nor were the applicants told what the new criteria meant.
"Two applicants ... stated that they had to guess the meaning of the term 'public benefits to the Navy,'" the GAO report said. "One took it to mean 'benefits to the Navy personnel.' The other took it to mean 'benefits to U.S. citizens.' As it turned out, the Navy was looking for 'benefits to the Navy as an institution.'"
After the new criteria were added, the Hawaii group's application received a score of 1.0 and Bremerton received a score of 0.88.
The shifting criteria and the communication gap over them also handicapped the Navy evaluation teams charged with grading the applications, the GAO report said.
In particular, Navy evaluation teams "found all applications lacking in information when measured against the added criteria," the report said.
The battleship USS Missouri is scheduled to be towed from Washington, arriving here in time for Military Week in May 1998.
USS Missouri due by MayStar-Bulletin staff
The addition of the Missouri to the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum is expected to bring another million visitors to the attractions, which now draw 1.5 million visitors annually.
Initially, the Missouri will be moored at Pier F-5 at Ford Island, and access will be by bus over the new bridge which will be completed in May 1998.
During the ship's second year here, construction will begin on a new permanent mooring at Pier F-2/3 with access from the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center by shuttle boat.
The Missouri Memorial Association plans to charge $8 to $10 to visit the battleship.
Contributions are being solicited by the USS Missouri Memorial Association, 965-A4 North Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817-4572.