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Base Advocates Call Pentagon Memo Flawed : Military: Gallegly says report advising closure of Point Mugu Navy installation is plagued with errors. Local delegation plans to lobby Washington directly.

November 15, 1994|KENNETH R. WEISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Moving swiftly to protect the Point Mugu Navy base and its 9,000 jobs, local supporters on Monday criticized the accuracy and legitimacy of a confidential Pentagon report that recommends shutting down the base and transferring its operations to other installations.

U. S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) said Monday that the report is plagued with incorrect assumptions and miscalculations. He said he has renewed his request to Pentagon officials that the report be withdrawn so that it does not "unfairly influence" next year's round of base closures.

Meanwhile, other Point Mugu supporters said they plan to discredit the report's conclusions next month during a four-day lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.

"That will certainly be one of the purposes to go to D.C.," said Supervisor John K. Flynn, who will help lead the delegation to the nation's capital on Dec. 13.

"We don't need to just neutralize this one report," Flynn said, "but to turn it around and show that Point Mugu and Port Hueneme are unique facilities needed by the nation's military."

Despite Navy complaints about the report's accuracy, the Defense Department inspector general's office issued the audit on June 8, concluding that taxpayers could save $1.7 billion over the next 20 years if Point Mugu cuts about 1,000 jobs and moves the rest to other bases.

Public disclosure of the report in Sunday's edition of The Times has heightened concern among workers at Point Mugu and Navy supporters in Ventura County.

Adm. Dana B. McKinney, commander of Point Mugu, said he is concerned about "the anxiety level of our people" on base and said the report was supposed to remain out of public view to avoid causing unnecessary alarm.

McKinney emphasized that Pentagon officials are reviewing every base in the nation. And, he said, until the list of bases recommended for closure is released in March, any other suggestion about which bases might close is "pure speculation."

But Supervisor Maggie Kildee said residents need as much information as possible so they can judge the rumors swirling around about potential base closures.

"The good thing is the community needs to be aware that it is a very real threat," Kildee said.

She said the community also needs to be aware of the efforts of the local BRAC '95 Task Force--named for the base realignment and closure process--which has raised about $200,000 to argue the case for preserving Navy bases at Point Mugu and Port Hueneme. Kildee will join the task force's delegation to Washington next month.

In its 57-page report, the Defense Department's inspector general recommends moving most of Point Mugu's missile-testing operations and about 2,000 jobs to its sister base at China Lake, 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the upper Mojave Desert.

The report said the consolidation would eliminate duplicative functions at the two bases, which test high-tech weaponry as members of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division.

It suggests moving another 1,000 workers to a soon-to-be vacated engineering lab at nearby Port Hueneme. A few would remain behind to operate Point Mugu's airfield.

The report also recommends dispersing the 1,500 uniformed personnel and their Navy operations, which are "tenants" at Point Mugu. However, it does not address the 3,000 contract workers who work on base as employees of private defense firms.

The inspector general auditors said taxpayers would see no savings in the first six years because moving costs would run as high as $518 million.

Navy officials have sharply criticized the report as flawed and based on incorrect assumptions--a criticism echoed in letters released by Gallegly.

In his letter to Deputy Inspector General Derek J. Vander Schaaf on Oct. 6, Gallegly points out that projected savings were based on the assumption that Point Mugu is scheduled for a major reduction in workload.

For instance, auditors projected that ongoing testing work on the F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter would amount to $15 million rather than the Navy's estimate of $70 million.

He also took issue with the recommendation to move the missile-test range operation to a Navy laboratory at the mouth of the Port of Hueneme.

He wrote that the auditors failed to take into account that the antennas and other equipment need wide open spaces to function properly. The harbor would not provide a suitable place to safely monitor missiles fired over Point Mugu's 36,000-square-mile sea test range.

"Two such glaring miscalculations, alone, would seem to discredit your report," Gallegly wrote.

*

The congressman also wrote that he believes the report may violate the nation's base closure and realignment law. That law prohibits any Pentagon agency from spending money to identify any base for closure unless it is part of the official base closure and realignment process.

Vander Schaaf has yet to respond to Gallegly's latest letter. But last year, Vander Schaaf assured the congressman that the $400,000 audit did not violate the law.

In addition, Robert J. Lieberman, the Defense Department's assistant inspector general for auditing, has said his office has the authority to scrutinize bases for closure under the law because it is helping verify all data submitted by the Navy and other military branches.

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