By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
EVERETT — At a time when the federal government plans to cut defense spending, the presence of the Navy in Snohomish County is certain for now with the announcement Tuesday that more destroyer warships are coming to Everett.
As three frigates at Naval Station Everett are decommissioned in the coming years, three destroyers are scheduled to arrive in their place.
Not only does the move ensure a naval presence into the future, it means a 7 percent increase — about 280 sailors — in Navy personnel here and presumably a boost to the economy, said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington.
“This shows that the Navy is committed,” Larsen said. “While many military communities are worried about impending cuts to the Defense Department budget, the decision to bring the destroyers to Everett should relieve our community of any fears of losing the Navy station.”
The announcement also validates the local support for the naval station, Larsen said.
“Everett has been supportive from the start,” Larsen said. “And not only is Everett a strategically important location in the Pacific, its facilities are among the best the Navy has to offer, and it can take on more without new construction needed.”
Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said the announcement is a huge relief.
“There’s a reason that Naval Station Everett is called the sailor’s choice, and we take a lot of pride in that,” Stephanson said. “The news provides stability and predictability for the base and our community through the decade. This announcement is more about the future, and that’s what I think is the critical part.”
The base’s two 505-foot Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, the USS Momsen and USS Shoup, are to be joined over the next seven years by three new or modified ballistic missile defense-capable destroyers.
Naval Station Everett’s three 435-foot Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates are to be decommissioned: the USS Ford in 2014, the USS Rodney M. Davis in 2016 and the USS Ingraham in 2019. All were commissioned in the 1980s.
Larsen, who learned of the decision by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on Friday, had lobbied since 2005 to bring more destroyers to Everett. The facility has plenty of room for more ships, Stephanson said.
“And we are not done pushing for more,” Larsen said.
Troy McClelland, chief executive officer for Economic Alliance Snohomish County, believes the Navy provides economic stability for the county.
“It is great for businesses of all sizes, from retail to entertainment,” McClelland said. “It’s important for our confidence in the future.”
With the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz set to arrive in Everett within a few weeks, eventually Naval Station Everett will be the home base for six big warships and hundreds more sailors. The increase in naval personnel at Everett should grow from about 3,956 to 4,235, Larsen said.
Naval Station Everett public affairs officer Kristin Ching said it would be inappropriate for the base commander to comment about the news just yet.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement Tuesday that she also is pleased about the commitment from the Navy.
“This is a major victory for Naval Station Everett, and it could not have been done without the tremendous support the community gives the base ,” Murray said. “I’m so glad the Navy has taken note of all Naval Station Everett has to offer.”
Larsen also believes the future of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is secure.
“All the Navy bases in the Pacific Northwest are on the Navy’s map for good reason,” Larsen said. “We are important in the Asia-Pacific security strategy.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a look at some of the ships that are based at Naval Station Everett, go to tinyurl.com/HeraldNTKnavyships.