A Navy plan to move a division of between 100 and 150 scientists, engineers and other workers dedicated to protecting sailors and ships from chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) warfare from Naval Support Facility Dahlgren in Virginia across the Potomac River to Naval Support Facility Indian Head in Maryland would be delayed until the service submits a report to defense committees justifying the realignment, under language in the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill approved last week by the House Armed Services Committee.
The Navy announced the transfer last July, saying it was needed to better align related functions. Officials in King George County, Va., Fredericksburg and the surrounding region initially questioned the move, citing the construction of a new laboratory at Dahlgren in 2011 to consolidate the service’s CBR-Defense Division following the relocation of activities from Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Ind. More recently, the Free Lance-Star reported the move was intended to bolster the workload for the Indian Head facility, which has been struggling financially. In an op-ed written in response, the senior leadership at Dahlgren denied the transfer was designed “as a bailout” for the Indian Head facility and reiterated that the migration of the Navy’s CBR-Defense capabilities to Indian Head will improve “our national defense capability.”
The authorization bill, H.R. 5515, requires the Navy to submit a report within 90 days of the measure’s enactment covering the planned move’s timeline; costs including personnel, equipment and facility; a risk assessment of the operational impact of the transfer during the transition; and an explanation of the move’s operational benefits. The Navy would be barred from carrying out any activities related to the move until 45 days after it submits the requested report. The provision was added at the request of Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman (R), chairman of the committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
Navy photo by John Williams