Consultant Hired To Protect State From Base Closures

The governor’s office has hired a consultant to study Virginia’s military assets as part of a growing effort to protect the state from future base closures.

The Spectrum Group, which signed a deal totaling $300,000 over six months, already is doing similar work for Alabama and Florida – states likely to compete with Virginia if Congress approves another round of base realignments and closures.

That shouldn’t present a conflict, said Terrie Suit, the governor’s secretary of Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security, whose office is overseeing the agreement. The Feb. 27 contract contains a confidentiality agreement barring Spectrum from sharing its findings with third parties, including other states with which the firm has signed contracts.

“We’re going to be very careful about the information sharing on this because we learned last time that the competitors are very aggressive,” said Suit, referring to 2005, when the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission – known as BRAC – proposed closing Oceana Naval Air Station and sending the Navy’s fleet of F/A-18 Hornets to Florida. “We don’t want to give away our strategies.”

The Spectrum contract is the latest in a series of steps aimed at protecting the state from military downsizing. The governor’s office did not announce the agreement, but a copy of the contract is posted on the state’s website.

The Alexandria-based Spectrum Group will visit each of the state’s military bases, develop a closure risk assessment for each installation, then report the findings to the state’s Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities, a group formed by the governor this month and headed by former Fleet Forces commander, retired Adm. John Harvey.

Spectrum is staffed by several former defense officials and lawmakers, most of whom have direct experience with previous rounds of base closures. The group also has formed a partnership with the Principi Group, a defense consulting firm led by Anthony Principi, a former secretary of Veterans Affairs and the chairman of the 2005 BRAC Commission.

Principi, who shares an office and phone line with Spectrum, was one of seven BRAC commissioners in 2005 who voted to add Oceana to the list of possible base closures. The group cited residential encroachment around Oceana as a problem, and considered pitches from Florida and Texas to relocate fighter squadrons to those states.

The commission decided not to do so after city and state officials pledged to curb development around the base and buy properties in high risk zones around the base.

Suit said she doesn’t know whether Principi is working with Spectrum in Virginia and said she can’t dictate with whom the consultant subcontracts.

“Our hope is that they get the best info they can to help Virginia,” Suit said.

Principi and Spectrum officials did not return phone calls for comment.

Retired Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, said he doesn’t have a problem with Spectrum and Principi working for Virginia along with other states, so long as the contract is structured to prevent sharing of information.

Quigley said he’s happy the state is being more proactive than it was a decade ago, when some officials seemed to be caught off guard by BRAC recommendations.

Congress hasn’t yet signaled support for another round of base realignments and closures, but Quigley expects the president’s budget proposal to once again call for it. In an economic climate of defense cutting, it’s good to start preparing now, he said.

“There are a variety of states that are doing what Virginia is now doing to prepare themselves for the potential for another round or two of BRAC,” Quigley said. “We’re seeing what other states are seeing and preparing accordingly.”

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