Two Bases, Two Stories: Portsmouth, McPherson
(Soundbite of applause)
Unidentified Man: How do you like it now, Portsmouth?
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
There were celebrations today at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Thousands of workers paraded out of the main gate to celebrate the vote that will keep their shipyard open. Paul O'Connor was one of them.
Mr. PAUL O'CONNOR (Worker, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard): Today is a great day for our shipyard, our community, our state and for our nation.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Captain Bill McDonough was the commander of the shipyard for five years. He took part in the celebrations in Portsmouth today, where he told us why he thought the campaign to keep the shipyard open had prevailed.
Captain BILL McDONOUGH (Retired; Former Commander, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard): Because we had the best product. The secretary of Defense and the secretary of the Navy were obliged to come up with a scheme that would indicate that there was excess capacity, so they could shut down a shipyard and transfer work to the private sector, despite the fact that that would cost far more.
SIEGEL: So you're saying that this victory--and you were campaigning heavily to keep the shipyard open--is in part a victory for US Navy personnel doing the job as opposed to outsourcing it?
Capt. McDONOUGH: Absolutely. The people--the men and women of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the government employees, are head and shoulders the best in the nation at any kind of nuclear submarine repair, modernization, refueling. The fact that they are so far and above the performances of all the other shipyards just was impelling the commissioners to come out with the correct answer; that the secretary of Defense and the secretary of the Navy were fabricating an incorrect position in their recommendation to close the shipyard.
SIEGEL: When it comes to the secretary of Defense, you're not being magnanimous in victory here. You think this was a dirty job he was trying to do to you.
Capt. McDONOUGH: Yeah, I think it was a dirty job. They did not have a factual basis upon which to make this recommendation.
SIEGEL: Do you figure the shipyard is safe now, I mean, for the long term?
Capt. McDONOUGH: Yes, I do. It's--we've been--I have a document that shows that in 1874 some congressmen were recommending the closure of the Navy yard at Kittery and Boston and New London. We'll go through this again. You know, as time goes on, these things keep coming up.
SIEGEL: Well, Captain McDonough, thank you very much for talking with us today.
Capt. McDONOUGH: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: Captain Bill McDonough is retired. He's a former commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
BLOCK: More somber news today for Georgia, where Ft. Gillem is one of four bases set to close. Chuck Hall is mayor of Forest Park, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. It's the site of Ft. Gillem, a big employer for that area. Mayor Hall was stoic about today's vote to close the base.
Mayor CHUCK HALL (Forest Park, Georgia): As I told some of the people that asked me--said, `Well, how do you feel about it closed? And I know you fought to keep it open.' I said, `Well, it's like a ball game. I pitched the first inning and lost.' And now then it's up to the team that I have in place now to come in and start looking at how to handle it from this point on and how to redevelop it.
SIEGEL: In Michigan, Paul Pagle had a different take. He lives near the Army's Selfridge garrison in Harrison Township, which is expected to close. Pagle, a veteran, says that he and others depend on the services there, such as the grocery store and medical services.
Mr. PAUL PAGLE (Veteran): If you, in any one day, are at Selfridge and you see the amount of cars that are in the parking lot in front of the commissary or in front of the PX, you know, it's a benefit that veterans really will miss because they're not close to a large facility that would offer these benefits for a veteran. We're--the veterans in this tri-county area will lose those benefits because of them closing at Selfridge.
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