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N.H. senators to fight military cuts that could affect Portsmouth shipyard

This is a May 6, 2005 photo of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an Island between New Hampshire, right, and Maine in Kittery, Maine. The Defense Department on Friday proposed closing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

This is a May 6, 2005 photo of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an Island between New Hampshire, right, and Maine in Kittery, Maine. The Defense Department on Friday proposed closing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

New Hampshire’s senators have vowed to fight a new round of proposed military cuts that could put the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on the chopping block. And they are in a better position than most to keep open one of the state’s key economic drivers.

Both U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee and hold leadership positions on a key subcommittee that handles base realignment and closure, known as BRAC. Shaheen, a Democrat, chairs the subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, and Ayotte serves as the subcommittee’s ranking Republican member.

That two senators from one state hold such influence on a key vote is a rarity in Washington, and it underscores the challenge the Pentagon would face if it tried to close the shipyard.

“I don’t think it is all that common because many states have both senators in the same party,” said Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College, in an email. “In the case of Shaheen and Ayotte, the state has one of each, and since it is a small state, the Portsmouth Naval Operation is a big deal for any lawmaker from N.H. The kind of selection bias so evident in their being on the same committee and subcommittee is a major reason why it is so difficult to cut the budget for defense or anything else.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is also known for being an advocate of the Portsmouth shipyard, and she is a member of the Senate’s Defense Appropriation Subcommittee.

Both Shaheen and Ayotte took strong stances in defense of the base yesterday, one day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan to scale back the size of America’s military.

“Another BRAC round would have serious consequences for our shipyard, our workers and our economy in New Hampshire,” Shaheen said in a statement, adding she will use her position at subcommittee chairwoman to “fight any efforts to advance another round.”

The Portsmouth shipyard is located in Kittery, Maine, but many of its 4,700 civilian employees are from New Hampshire. At one point last year, it faced a serious threat of closing in 2015. Congress rejected that proposal, but Hagel said this week he again plans to pursue closures, even without congressional approval.

During Defense Department confirmation hearings yesterday, Ayotte pressed the nominee for the department’s No. 2 post to say the department wouldn’t close bases without congressional approval. That nominee, Robert Work, said only that the Defense Department wouldn’t close bases by acting outside of the law. Ayotte wasn’t pleased.

“I take that as a lack of commitment and that troubles me . . . there should not be a run-around done,” she told him. “I would like to know from the Secretary, in particular, what authority he believes he does have, so we . . . can exercise appropriate authority to make sure that our voices are heard here on the policy matters.”

Base closings are just one piece of budget cuts that Hagel outlined Monday. The cuts would reduce the Army to its smallest size since before World War II, retire an Air Force fleet of A-10 “Warthog” planes, shrink military pay raises and seek greater contributions toward health insurance. Congress already set the budget total at $500 million, lower than in previous years due to sequestration, but Hagel’s comments this week outlined how that money could be spent. The full budget proposal will be released next week.

The proposed reduction in the Army from roughly 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000 came in part because of the country’s withdrawal from two large ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his speech, Hagel said the American military needs to become more agile and technologically focused.

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said she understands the constraints the department is under given sequestration cuts, but is skeptical of a reduction in ground forces.

“I’m studying this proposal very closely. It’s going to be hard to convince me that a personnel cut this big is in the best interests of our national security, but I also recognize the difficulties faced by the Department of Defense,” she said.

Rep. Annie Kuster, who is on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, expressed concerns about weakening benefits for veterans.

“While I applaud efforts to cut costs and shrink our budget deficit, I remain committed to ensuring that New Hampshire service members and military families have the resources they need to protect our homeland safely and effectively,” she said in a statement.

For Ayotte, fighting the retirement of the A-10 fighter plane is another key priority. She called Hagel’s proposal to retire the plane a “serious mistake based on poor analyses and bad assumption” and plans to work within the Armed Services Committee to stop it from happening.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments16

The liberal magazine The New Republic admitted that Mitt Romney was right about Russia after the Vladimir Putin-led nation invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea late last week. ..... Sarah Palin: 'I told you so on Ukraine' - CSMonitor.com

Like Ayotte, I have reservations about getting rid of the A-10, which is battle-tested, unlike its proposed replacement, and which ground troops love having around. But we spend more on "defense" than the next ten nations combined, as the chart linked below shows vividly. Recall the adage,"When all you have is a hammer,everything looks like a nail." http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-defense-spending-by-country-2014-2

It is not about the equipment that matters. If Obama gets his way, we will have fewer troops than before WWII and about as many as Turkey. You have to have troops to operate equipment like the A-10. With the North Korean troop numbers 4-5X larger than ours and the Chinese exponentially larger with their efforts to build a large fleet, we can ill afford any cuts. If we don't defend countries trying to remain free and not be bullied by N. Korea, China and Russia, then who will? Of course I realize that your preferred governance is more closely related to those countries than to the Constitution but we need a strong defense.

You do realize that this is not the 1950's. You use the same arguments that were used in Vietnam. We must fight to stop the spread of communism. Look how that turned out 211744 US killed or wounded for nothing. Wake up the Red Scare passed decades ago. Now it is religious terrorists with no standing armies and no real home base. Oh and as for the troop cuts, do you seriously think we have troops operating our high tech weapons systems? We don't, we have weapons specialists, drones, smart bombs and all the other things that replace traditional ground forces. Get your military hierarchy straight. BTW - Sen. Joe McCarthy is really dead.

Oh, of course a Russian destroyer docking in Cuba is absolutely nothing at all either, just a statement about our weakness, the unwillingness of those among is to stand up for freedom in the world and thumbing their noses at Obama who has failed every single test of foreign policy.

Herein lies the real issue on why we can't reign in government spending. Our tax dollars go to pay millions of workers and we have 100 Senators trying to keep jobs in their states. This is what has been done almost from the start. I am not debating the merits of our shipyard, merely the problem trying to cut spending. We all want to cut spending but there is a cost no one is willing to pay. Every cut in spending will impact someones job or service. Target waste in gov and again there will be a corresponding cost. We give incentives and tax breaks to oil companies who need no incentives, we have farm subsidies where roughly 95% of all government money goes to those that don't need it, not the small farmer as it's commonly suggested. Everyone has their hands out for our tax dollars. Even Concord wants it's chunk of funds for redoing main street. Multiply that $4mil by all the other podunk towns across the country. One things for certain, the role the military plays in today's world is much different that our traditional approach so there will be some pain. For better or worse there will be change and someone is sure not to embrace it.

Those who have not done so recently would benefit from studying what the United States Constitution says about the federal government’s responsibility to provide for the common defense. 1)National defense is the top priority job of the government 2)National defense is the only mandatory function of the government 3)National defense is exclusively the function of the Federal government. Liberals will have you believe that all their social programs are a federal govt job - Ask them where in the constitution those powers are enumerated. If they try and site the " Welfare clause" then you know they are a LIDV as the Welfare clause has nothing to do with their progressive liberal socialist ideas.

You're in need of both a history lesson, and lessons in reading comprehension. Your blinkered reading of the Constitution is--despite what you claim--an interpretation, and a self-serving one at that--aimed at undoing the social reforms of the New Deal, by ignoring language that is inconvenient. For starters, the Preamble plainly puts "promote the general Welfare" right beside "provide for the common defense". Exactly what those glittering generalities (and the many others throughout the document) mean is left for Congress and the courts to decide. The Constitution was intentionally written in broad strokes and generalities--in part so it would appeal to the differing viewpoints of the Founders at the Constitutional Convention, and muster enough votes to be ratified, and in recognition of the fact it should never become a straitjacket on future generations. Which is exactly the intent of your claims. There would be no need for constitutional scholars or courts to decide whether laws are constitutional, if your claim was true.

Welcome to NObama’s America, where the Pentagon budget slashes benefits for active duty personnel while NObama gives a pay raise to civilian federal (liberal union) employees. NObama marches forward in his goal to destroy America's Global leadership - way to go democrats....next ....... liberal progressive socialist democrats will nominate Saul Alinsky lover #2 - Hillary.

Really again, why don't you try just a tiny bit of truth in your comments. I know a novel idea. No active duty personnel had their benefits slashed. It was a reduction in COLA, and not even that a deferral that only affected those with 20 years service, which is roughly 13% of the services. No Federal Union employees benefited from the minimum wage increase, that only pertained to civilian contract workers. Trust me, very few if any were minimum wage - this was purely symbolic. Perhaps you should have changed your name to "NotaClue", you obviously never read the material you comment on.

Moreover, few if any "civilian contract workers" benefited from the $10.10 propaganda campaign.

DEC 23 - Obama by executive order raised wages of 100% of Federal employees from VP Biden to the secretary - has nothing to do with the Federal contractor executive order

Care to show from which source you got that information there sail? W all know how you love to make up your own facts to support your outlandish ideas

Sail is sort of correct on this. Federal employees have had their pay frozen since 2010 and recently received a 1% raise. However the legislative bodies received no such raise.

thank you

Again, only a small portion of his statement may be correct. Thus that is why I ask him to cite sources.

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