Pols Plan Navy Yard Defense

Posted: February 01, 1990

WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware legislators huddled on Capitol Hill yesterday to begin mapping strategy for the battle to keep the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Naval Base open.

The brief meeting ended with the lawmakers, four of the six U.S. senators

from the tri-state region and a half-dozen House members, insisting the installation could be spared on merit, while boasting they also had the political muscle to prevail.

"The chances are much better than ever of saving the Navy Yard," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., noting that all six senators - three from each party - "feel very strongly on this issue."

Rep. Thomas Foglietta, D-Pa., in whose district the yard is located, echoed Biden, citing the presence of tri-state delegation members on key committees in both chambers of Congress.

Sen. H. John Heinz and Rep. Curt Weldon, both Pennsylvania Republicans, asserted that the Navy Yard was safe in the short term, given the work it has booked through 1997.

The lawmakers did differ sharply on one point: whether the decision on which facilities to close should be determined by a bipartisan commission such as the one that in 1988 recommended closing Fort Dix, N.J.

While Rep. Thomas Carper, D-Del., said the "entire Delaware delegation" supports the bipartisan commission approach as a "far more objective way" to determine what bases to close, Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., who helped battle against the closure of Fort Dix, joined Foglietta and others in rejecting the idea, saying lawmakers should make the choices.

Foglietta, who is coordinating the Navy Yard defense effort, said a task force of the lawmakers would make the Navy Yard's case before Defense Department officials.

The on-and-off debate about the future of the Navy Yard and base became a topic of discussion again last week when Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said they were on a list of candidates for base closings over the next five years.

More than 10,000 civilian workers in the Deleware Valley are employed by the shipyard and base.

More than a few lawmakers, Republican as well as Democrat, wondered aloud whether the Defense Department had ulterior motives in targeting the Navy Yard.

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter discounted assertions that installations in Democratic districts were targeted more than those in Republican districts, noting that the Naval Yard and Naval Base are in a state represented by two GOP senators. Specter suggested the Defense Department was probably looking for ways to keep its budget intact.

"It's not a political matter," said Specter. "There may be some jockeying to keep the military budget up. There is an interest in Defense to keep their budget high."

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