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(Washington, D.C.) – At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) expressed her misgivings about the Defense Department’s request for another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round and the lack of investment in our nation’s public shipyards.

In response to Shaheen’s questions, Panetta reaffirmed the Defense Department’s support for America’s public shipyards, including Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“We absolutely have to maintain the industrial base we have and the shipyards in your area, and the other shipyards we deal with, are extremely important to our ability to respond to the needs that we have,” Panetta said.  “We’re going to do everything possible to work with you.”

Since it is still unclear how effective the last BRAC round in 2005 was in actually saving money, Shaheen asked Panetta to provide Congress a comprehensive assessment of the savings from the last round.  Panetta agreed.

Shaheen also pointed to the significant restoration and modernization backlog at the nation’s public shipyards, which includes over $513 million at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and asked that the military provide a plan to address these challenges.

“Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was actually removed from the last [BRAC] round by the commission because of [its] effectiveness,” said Shaheen, a member of the Armed Services Committee, which will have jurisdiction over any BRAC legislation.  “They have been producing very well, despite that backlog—they just delivered the U.S.S. San Juan attack submarine eight days ahead of schedule.  As we’re looking at our security going forward, [our] public shipyards are a critical part of that.”

In addition, Shaheen called on the officials to commit to considering National Guard facilities, including Pease Air National Guard Base, when deciding where to base the Air Force’s new KC-46A air refueling tanker.  Panetta assured Shaheen that the Air Force will consider National Guard facilities in the basing process.