03/14/05 — Opinion: Avast, matey

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Opinion: Avast, matey

By Gene Price
Published in News on March 14, 2005 1:53 PM

Perhaps the attitudes of Admirals Vern Clark and William Fallon at a congressional hearing last week could be perceived by some as in keeping with the great tradition of the U.S. Navy.

The subject was the Outlying Landing Field the Navy has insisted upon building in Beaufort and Washington counties. Objections to this have been sustained by a federal judge who found the Navy's environmental assessment not only seriously flawed but apparently contrived. The judge urged the Navy to explore alternative sites.

But the Navy has doggedly persisted. It has spent millions on land purchases despite the fact that the field might never be allowed.

At the recent hearing in Washington, Congressman David Price observed: "There is a strong consensus that an alternative site can be found and the state is ready to help find another site. Is the Navy exploring one?"

That was about as nicely as the suggestion could have been put.

Admiral Clark's response: "We're not extensively considering an alternate." He said the Navy is planning on "success in its appeal" of the federal judge's ruling.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield put the question to Admiral Fallon, now head of the Pacific Fleet. Butterfield also wanted to know what would be done with the land already acquired by the Navy. The admiral responded flatly that the Navy will not consider any other site because the one it had chosen was "the best."

In old Navy jargon: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

To which some Down East old-timers might be inclined to warn his star-shouldered eminence: "Avast, there, Matey. You've already run hard aground!"