Secrecy surrounding reports that the Navy plans to truck missiles back and forth between a weapons station in Northern California and Seal Beach came under attack in a letter from Rep. Les Aspin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, that was released Friday.
Under the plan, the Navy reportedly would transfer a missile-guidance testing operation from the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the Bay Area to the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station.
An aide to Rep. George Miller (D-Contra Costa) said the congressman has been seeking information on the Navy's plans for more than two months because it could mean the loss of nearly 200 jobs in Concord and require up to 2,300 missiles annually to be trucked on public highways between the two facilities.
Danny Weiss, the Miller aide, said that although the congressman has been unable to confirm his information with the Navy, he has talked to "military and civilian personnel" at the Concord facility.
"The safety question alone is disturbing," Miller's chief of staff, John Lawrence, told United Press International, "but the other issue is in whether it's even necessary."
Officials at the Seal Beach weapons station couldn't be reached for comment but have said in the past that weapons are routinely shipped to and from the base by truck and that the Navy's safety record has been excellent.
Aspin, in a letter, said he will request an investigation of the Navy's plans. Miller enlisted the help of Aspin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, when the Navy did not respond to his requests for further information.
In his letter to Navy Secretary Lawrence Garrett, Aspin said he would ask the U.S. General Accounting Office to review the Navy's secret plans and "provide me with an assessment on whether this transfer makes sense from a cost-effectiveness and military-mission standpoint."
Weiss said Miller has been told that approximately 190 jobs will be shifted from Concord to Seal Beach and another facility in Yorktown, Va. At Seal Beach, he said, there would be increased responsibilities for missile-guidance testing but no live-fire testing.
Lawrence, Miller's chief of staff, told the wire service he has been informed that there is "chaos" over the issue among Navy officials at the Pentagon.
The missiles involved, Lawrence said, are Standard surface-to-air missiles, and Skipper, Harpoon and Sparrow air-to-air missiles.
From what little is known of the plan, the missiles would be loaded on trucks beginning this fall for a virtually continuous shuttle from Concord to Seal Beach and back again, using either U.S. Highway 99, Interstate 5 or U.S. 101.
"It's a highly secretive operation," Lawrence said, "but none of the communities on the route have been notified and no information has been provided on how it will be done."
Weiss said Miller believes the Navy's plans will not be cheap. "It appears to us that there will be an $18-million construction cost to build missile-testing facilities at Seal Beach," he said.