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Naval Station Kitsap receives green light

BANGOR — By as early as April 29, the Navy could get Congressional approval to merge Kitsap County’s two largest bases under a single command.

Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England Monday approved the merger of Naval Station Bremerton and Naval Submarine Base Bangor under the Naval Station Kitsap banner after a year’s worth of planning by Navy Region Northwest leaders. If approved, the changes would happen as soon as June.

“This merger allows us to cut back on management overhead and be better stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Rear Adm. Len Hering, commanding officer of the Navy Region Northwest. “These savings Navy-wide will help us to fund a 21st century Navy with the capabilities necessary to counter the continuously changing threats we face around the world.”

The merger will affect nearly 40 upper-level management positions, according to information released by the Navy in November 2003, saving an estimated $2 million annually. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is not affected by the change.

“The whole motivation is to save money and not cut service,” said one official familiar with the merger plans. No other cuts have been officially announced.

Capt. Douglass Biesel, commanding officer at Bangor, will oversee operations after the merger is approved. Capt. T.J. Dargan, commander at Bremerton, will serve as deputy commander.

The Navy has been cutting back on its $37 billion in personnel costs in an effort to free up funding to increase the size of its fleet from 292 ships to 375 ships.

According to reports, 7,900 personnel cuts Navy-wide could equal $254 million in savings in fiscal year 2005.

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