03/21/04 — The Navy’s needs some adjustment

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The Navy’s needs some adjustment

The U.S. Navy might need some serious attitude adjustment.

What some perceive as its high-handedness in dealing with the public has been a concern among some eastern North Carolina residents and some elected officials in recent years.

It was evidenced recently in a news report of a Navy captain’s comments to a committee appointed by the governor to review plans for an outlying landing field in Washington County.

Retired Appeals Court Judge Sidney Eagles chairs the 19-member civilian panel.

“We can reason with the Navy. Out of that, we hope we can come to some solutions that are less awful, less punitive,” said Eagles.

That appeared to come under the heading of wishful thinking in light of Navy Capt. Stuart D. Bailey’s subsequent comment: “You know our position is we are going to build this field in Washington County.” Bailey is executive officer of the Naval Air Station Oceana at Virginia Beach.

He said the Navy will acquire 2,000 acres and 11 residences this year and another 30,000 acres and 63 residences within the next two years.

This seemed to be an obvious declaration that no matter what the governor’s panel might find or suggest, the decision was final.

Another clear signal of the Navy’s attitude came in response to Eagles’ asking why eight of 10 Super Hornet squadrons that would use the field would be stationed in Virginia while North Carolina would be getting the economic benefits of only two squadrons and all the noise and other problems associated with the field.

Replied Capt. Bailey: “That decision was made at the highest levels of the Navy.” Period!

That wasn’t an answer. It was a dismissal — an obvious suggestion that the “highest levels of the Navy” are not to be questioned by a puny little panel appointed by the governor of North Carolina, a state long recognized for its strong support of the military.

But the fact is that the “highest levels of the Navy” or any other branch of the military should be accountable to the people in such matters. And those facing loss of their land and livelihood, and states facing potentially serious economic and environmental effects due to military acquisitions, have a right to explanations from those “highest levels” of brass.

Perhaps the Navy needs to take some lessons in diplomacy and public relations from the Air Force and Army. Or at least require that everyone above the rank of ensign be required to complete a Dale Carnegie course.

Published in Editorials on March 21, 2004 12:09 AM