WASHINGTON – The Navy awarded a $64 million construction contract this week to relocate an air command from Northern Virginia to Southern Maryland.
But several Virginia members of Congress are working to prevent the move.
The Navy plans as a cost-cutting move to shift the Naval Air Systems Command and more than 2,600 employees from Crystal City, Va., to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County, Md.
The move was recommended in 1993 by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which oversees military base consolidations and realignments.
Department of Defense officials said the $180 million expected to be spent on relocation and construction costs would in the long run be more cost-effective than continuing to lease property at a Crystal City complex. The complex also houses the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Space and Warfare Systems Command, which have been recommended for moves to White Oak and the District by 1999.
Specific cost-saving figures were not available.
But members of the Virginia delegation have other ideas about the moves.
“We are fighting all of the relocations on the issue of cost,” said Kathleen Lash, a spokeswoman for Rep. James Moran Jr., D-Alexandria.
Moran and Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Charles Robb, D-Va., sent a Jan. 23 letter to the DoD requesting another review of the decisions.
In their letter to Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch, the Virginia congressmen said the Navy would save money by reducing the air command’s staff by 369 positions and purchasing the Crystal City complex from its private landowners.
Warner called the landowner’s latest offer “too good to refuse.”
But Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Prince George’s, said the Navy is committed to the relocations and consolidations.
“We remain fully confident that the NavAir move will proceed as planned from Crystal City to Pax River,” Jacobs said.
The move would underscore the Navy’s commitment “to establishing Pax River as a premiere, full spectrum, aviation acquisition center,” Hoyer said in a written statement.
Hoyer, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, pressed to ensure that $100 million was included in a 1995 funding bill for military construction in Maryland.
The $64 million contract awarded to Turner Construction of Arlington, Va., would be used to construct new facilities, including a five-story, 462,000-square foot office building. Nearly 900 workers would be hired by contractors to construct the facilities by February 1997.