Navy’s San Diego Fleet Expansion: Economic Engine to Gain Horsepower

A number of ships will be joining the local fleet in the not-too-distant future

By Gene Cubbison
|  Monday, Apr 16, 2012  |  Updated 9:26 PM PDT
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Naval Fleet to Expand in San Diego

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Naval Fleet to Expand in San Diego

This region's stature as the world's largest military-industrial complex is about to get a boost, with an expansion of the Navy's presence in San Diego. Gene Cubbison spoke to Navy Southwest Region Commander Dixon Smith and Capt. Dora Lockwood about the changes that will take place as a result of the expansion.
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This region's stature as the world's largest military-industrial complex is about to get a boost, with an expansion of the Navy's presence here.

The so-called "Navy Mayor of San Diego" announced Monday that a number of ships will be joining the local fleet in the not-too-distant future.

"We're not going to get smaller -- we're going to grow," Rear Admiral Dixon Smith, Navy Southwest Region Commander, said in an interview with NBC San Diego.  "The definition of what 'growth' is?  To be determined.  But we know we'll see more ships."

Smith steered away from hard numbers such as "a dozen," mentioned in what he characterized as premature news leaks.

And, contrary to earlier speculation, Smith said it's likely that two aircraft carriers -- not three or four -- will be home-ported here, versus one currently.

"This one of our major strategic ports in the Pacific where we execute the U.S. defense strategy out of," Smith told NBC-7. "You heard the President and secretary of defense came out in January with, 'the focus is going to be on the Asia and Pacific Theater'. We execute that mission from here."
                               
So the Navy's reported $30.5 billion annual economic impact on the city figures to escalate with the added payrolls and supply spending of more ships in port.
               
One out of every four jobs in this region, military and civilian, is said to be Defense Department-related.
               
Monday afternoon, Smith paid a call on the City Council to reaffirm the Navy's commitment to working cooperatively in managing its growing presence here.
               
He said he'll tackle various issues such as housing for the crew members of the newly home-porting ships and their families, schooling, and 'quality of life' programs.
               
Council members, in their comments, gave him a welcome reception.

"It's been a wonderful relationship that we have had over the last 100 years," Council President Tony Young said in an interview with NBC San Diego.  "Clearly, our area, this city, is becoming more important when it comes to the national scheme of what the Navy is trying to accomplish."

As much as the Navy has been a windfall for San Diego, military affairs observers say this region returns the favor -- offering a perfect combination of strategic, geographic and operational attributes that promote a "synergistic" relationship among the military and its civilian defense procurement and technology providers.

"I think there is recognition that San Diego is a national asset in our defense posture," says Jim Bedinger, a director of the San Diego Military Advisory Council and member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's military affairs committee.

"And in the big strategic picture," Bedinger adds, "it's hard to do the things we've got to do without San Diego in the equation one way or another."

Another Navy priority here is a new regional headquarters on its 15 harbor-front acres, planned as part of a $1.3 billion multi-use project called "Pacific Gateway.”
               
It's been tied up for years in legal, regulatory and financial issues.
               
Admiral Smith says if it stalls out, the Navy's Broadway Complex will remain as is, but in any case cannot be redeveloped "off-site.”
 

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