By Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 5/13/2005 4:27:26 PM ET 2005-05-13T20:27:26

The Department of Defense announced on Friday the list of some 180 military installations targeted for closure from Maine to Hawaii, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the nation’s oldest shipyard.

Governors and congressional delegations from Maine and New Hampshire will meet next week to discuss the next steps to try to rescue the facility from closure and save the jobs of nearly 4,000 civilian workers who are employed by the shipyard.

Navy Captain Jonathan Iverson, the commander of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, spoke with MSNBC.com about the proposed shipyard closing and the possibility that it can be saved. 

The Navy has praised the shipyard for having benchmark results among public and private sector shipyards, so how surprising was it to find out the shipyard was on the Pentagon’s list of military installation closings?
If you listened to the secretary of defense’s presentation this morning, he clearly stated that the decision to put installations on the list was not based on performance. It was based on the financial decision to stage us ready for future war fighting capability. So the fact that we got an award previously, I don’t think that had any bearing on whether we were on the list or not.

What has been the response from workers at the base and from the community since the announcement of closure?
I have not talked to the community yet. I have been focused, basically all day, making sure I get to the workforce.

I was focused on making sure I provided the current status, and where we are with the BRAC [base realignment and closure] process, based on what information I had. I gathered all the dayshift individuals and did a quick presentation with them. 

I was anticipating that the workforce would be kind of depressed, but I can tell you that what I got was resounding support. Both applause and pats on the back from the workforce.

I had numerous individuals, after my discussion, shake my hand and say, "Thank you, captain, we are behind you 100 percent and we will do what we need to do." So I was impressed at the professionalism and the patriotism of the workforce here.

How would Portsmouth’s closure impact the nation? 
I don’t think I am qualified to answer the effect of the closing of one shipyard on the nation. I am sure the Department of Defense, as they did the review through the BRAC process, should have data and evidence to provide what the effect may be. I have not had an opportunity to look at the specific data that was complied during the BRAC process so I don’t think I am qualified to answer that question.

How optimistic are you that Portsmouth can be saved?
We will see. The BRAC process is just starting. This is one step. It follows on by the commission, who have got to come in and do validation of the data and figure out the right numbers, and they’ll provide their recommendation to the president.

This is just one step in the process as we go. So, although this is not news that the shipyard wanted to hear, I think its just one of the steps to the process and as we go, we will see what happens.

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