Adm. Len Hering: It is, a $1.4 billion business.
I think that's not how a lot of members of the public think of it.I deliver 32 different product lines in a multi-functional role that's integrated across six states. Everything from child care to fleet support at the pier. Infrastructure, fleet support, I mean, it's huge. Commissary exchange, roadway infrastructure—It's a $1.4 billion business. We are the single largest economic engine in Southern California, $25 to $27 billion a year are funelled into the economic environment of Southern California thanks to the Department of the Navy, because there is no Department of the Army or Air Force here of any significance. We employ 27 percent of the employees in the County of San Diego.
We have contractors, employees, government service employes, more than 27,000 government service employees, 15,000 reservists. More Department of Defense money comes into the County of San Diego then any other county in the entire United States. We're responsible for securing the base operating support for that structure. So yeah, it's a business.
The military has had a lot of ups and downs over the last couple years, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You talk about diminishing resources. Do you feel like the public is with you?
I don't know, you tell me.
I think my perception is going to be very different from yours.
That's too bad, because we're doing your work. I mean, those kids are out there sacirficing their lives so you can sit here in comfort. And ask the questions your asking.
Do you feel like—
Are they supportive? Yes, I think so. Most of them, yeah, they're supportive. It's completely different from the Vietnam Era. But what we're doing out there is making a huge difference.
When you gave your speech [at a breakfast thrown by the San Diego Military Advisory Council], I was struck by how far ahead the Navy is from the civilian government on sustainability issues.
When people want to know how to do sustainability, come here first. I'm an individual who believes that environmental compliance and operations are not mutually exclusive, they just require good planning, but they also require a science-based approach of how that execution occurs, and a rationalization of the impacts on our ability to protect this great country.
If I could transition now to the question of the new headquarters [developer Doug Manchester is supposed to build the Navy a new headquarters on the site of the current HQ, but the project has been delayed by litigation and the economy], I know you're very frustrated. The opponents of the new Navy headquarters would love to see it built at 32nd street.
There's no property.
The 21st-century Navy is going to get bigger in San Diego, not smaller. So when you drive by, and you see all that space, there's a plan for the next 50 years for all that space, and it doesn't include a headquarters. We're going to get 35 more ships here in San Diego, three more squadrons, another carrier, and we've already moved five assets. Fifteen thousand more sailors will come to San Diego in the course of the next 10 years. We today occupy 14.5 acres in Downtown San Diego. The Broadway Complex and the contract between the Navy and the city—which, oh, by the way was crafted by the city and approved three times by the City Council, so this is a contract, it's not a Navy-crafted thing as it's continually phrased—it is a joint venture between the Navy and the city of San Diego. Our expected footprint when it's all done is one city block. The city of San Diego gets everything else. How do you see that that's not a good deal for the city? And oh, by the way, the conditions under which the Broadway development are required were crafted by the city, not by the Navy. So when people complain about what's being put down here, the only people you have to blame are your forefathers on the City Council, and the development committee.
Can you speak a little bit to people's concerns about terrorism with a big military headquarters downtown?
Gee whiz, where is the FBI here? Right Downtown? Where is the federal courthouse? Right Downtown? Where are they building a new federal courthouse? Right Downtown? Why do you think a facility that houses contracting—and, oh, by the way, we've been here since 1923—why all of a sudden is a new building such a concern?
The terrorist attacks of 2001.
I've been here since 1923.
You're asking how circumstances have changed, that's how.
When was the last time a military facility was attacked anywhere in the United States? There hasn't been. We've done our due diligence, we've done our threat assessments, we're building the necessary protections into the facility, as we would any other. To me it's a bogus excuse. That now that we want to build a new building, that the environment is changed, that this building, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, with no force protections, has placed the city at any greater risk since 2001 than a new building with adequate force protection would place the city. We have been exposed since 2001 in this facility, and continue to be exposed every day. And this is not a headquarters where there's a war component: 75 to 80 percent of the individuals in this building are government service employees. They're not uniformed members. They're white-collar workers. They're contracting officials, they're supply and logistics coordinators, and they're the folks who run my business, no different than Qualcomm headquarters. We have our operating centers behind blue lines, protected where they need to be. There's no exposed command and control here or anything else that puts anybody at risk.
Any other areas you want to touch on?
At the end of 32 years, I'm incredibly proud of the organization I've worked for. The sailors of San Diego should be very proud; they're doing great work. It's been a privilege to serve them. They're phenomenal kids. This is the next greatest generation: Incredibly dedicated, phenomenally loyal, they're kids with a purpose and an understanding of what they're doing. And some of these kids have been over there four, five times. You don't get individuals to re-up if they think what they're doing is not good. You don't get individuals to expose themselves in harm's way who feel that what they're doing is not making a difference. It's been a strain on the families and a strain on the sailors and they keep going back, and I think what we're doing is right, and I thank God to have been a part of it.