Neighbors, Carderock Is a Normal Feature of Daily Life
Bethesda Co-Op employee Gillian Ritchie
says some residents would notice if Carderock were to close. But, she
adds, "Me, personally, it might take me a while to notice." (Newsline photo by Kendra Nichols)
By Kendra Nichols
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
WEST BETHESDA, Md. - The Carderock Naval Surface Warfare Center sits just
past a line of trees and beyond a tall chain link fence on a quiet, winding
stretch of MacArthur Boulevard that is frequented by bicyclers and dog
Most neighbors say they don't give the facility a second thought, if
they think about it at all. The center and its 1,400 employees don't
really make the already bad traffic that much worse, they say, and the
base and its workers do not have that much of an impact on the few stores
in nearby Cabin John.
What neighbors seem think about, when they think about the 186-acre
center at all, is what might happen if the facility were not there.
"I don't think [its closing] would have a big impact on the community,"
said Burr Gray, president of the Cabin John Citizens Association. "But
people would be concerned about whatever was going to come next."
Like every military installation in the country, Carderock is being
eyed by the Defense Department for possible closure or consolidation under
the Base Realignment and Closure process. The next BRAC list, a hit list
of bases recommended by the Pentagon, is scheduled to be released this
"Every base is potentially at risk of being affected," said Kristina
Ellis, a business development specialist for Montgomery County's
Department of Economic Development. "Everyone knows to be on the lookout."
Even though Carderock has a low profile among its neighbors -- Cabin
John postmaster Laverne Baptist said, "Ninety percent of us don't even
know that they're there" -- the facility is the only one of its kind in
the nation. Supporters hope to use that fact in their fight to keep the
The facility tests and produces ship systems for the Navy, Coast Guard,
Army and maritime industry.
"Carderock is a very substantial organization," said Ivan Caplan, vice
president of the Maritime Technology Alliance, a nonprofit organization
that promotes the maritime industry in Maryland. "They're the only ship
system laboratory in the nation."
Caplan, who is trying to make the case for Carderock's importance to
the state and nation, says it is important to economy of the region as
well, because of the amount of work contracted out to civilian companies.
While Carderock may not make a huge difference to the few stores in
Cabin John, Caplan says the base contributes about $70 million in
contracts every year and about $140 million in salaries.
The 1,400-plus employees at the base are almost entirely civilian
workers, and a large number of them are scientists with advanced degrees,
a fact that Ellis says should make Carderock less of a target for the
Ellis says that even if the 186-acre compound were closed, it would not necessarily
mean the land would immediately go to the highest bidder to be turned into
townhouses or condominiums. The facility could be given to another branch
of the military or to the government.
Carderock could also wind up getting additional functions in the coming
round of BRAC instead of being closed, she says.
Cabin John resident Forrest Minor says he is not too worried about the
next BRAC. Minor, who retired from Carderock just over 10 years ago, was
around for BRAC hearings and reviews in 1988, 1991 and 1993, and Carderock
survived each time.
"I don't think anything will happen to Carderock," Minor said. "Every
time there's a BRAC, everybody who works on the base starts sweating."
2005 University of
Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism