Sep 022016
 

Triton

by Arnaud and Naja Girard........

The U.S. Navy is considering moving some 400 military families to Key West.  They would be supporting the Navy’s new Triton surveillance drone program. According to the Navy, the deployment shouldn’t be a problem, in terms of housing for new personnel, since the preliminary impact study drafted by the US Fleet Force Command shows that the Lower Keys area has a 43% housing vacancy rate. Key West, they claim, is a little bit tighter with only a 34% vacancy rate. The draft impact study concludes that ample vacant housing near NAS Key West will make “affordable rental opportunities available for all personnel to live off station.”

This is quite the contrast from a letter sent to the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, on February 29, 2016.  It read:

“The City of Key West faces a severely limited availability of affordable housing due to a multitude of reasons limiting new construction including the need for safe evacuation routes in the event of a natural disaster and mitigating environmental concerns.”

The letter was signed by federal representatives Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Frederica Wilson. They made a specific request:

“Given the acute shortage of housing in Key West which affects the Navy and the city alike we urge you to expedite returning the housing units at Sigsbee Park to active use.”

The units in question are some 166 vacant homes on Sigsbee Island. At the time, then NAS Key West Commander Stephen McAlearney publicly supported the request.

The City’s data shows a deficit of over 1300 units of affordable rental housing. Affordable Housing ordinances are in the works to deregulate density, parking and even height restrictions to create incentives for developers to build more affordable housing.

So just who in the Navy is approving that false "affordable rental opportunities" information in the EA and why?

The ‘who’ might take awhile but the ‘why’ could be answered with some reasonable speculation.

Officially, the Navy will be considering three possible locations for its UAS program [Unmanned Aircraft System]: Key West, FL; Wallop, Virginia; or Mayport, FL (near Jacksonville).

The MQ-4G Triton drone is a high altitude intelligence seeker. It is widely considered one of the best maritime surveillance tools available.  According to a March 18, 2015 report in Caribbean News Now!, the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, questioned how much the SOUTHCOM Commander knew about what was going on in the Caribbean, “I don’t have the assets [in the Caribbean],” answered General John Kelly, Commander of US Southern Command [USSOUTHCOM], “I have two Navy ships right now, that will go to zero forever by the summer…” [The two ships were being permanently withdrawn.]

The Triton system provides 24/7 surveillance, with sensors capable of intercepting communications and recording high definition video. According to its builder, Northrop Grumman, the Triton will provide “unprecedented maritime domain awareness for the U.S. Navy.”

That may be where Key West comes in.  Might the Navy prefer Key West’s military base because of its proximity to the areas to be monitored in the Caribbean sea?

At this point only one thing seems for sure:  the Navy appears ready to flatten any difficulty, even if it means claiming that over 40% of the Lower Keys housing is vacant and available for rent to potential additional Navy personnel.

We asked Ted Brown, spokesperson for US Fleet Forces Command, if the group participating in the drafting of the EA included local base personnel.

TB: Yes, there was communication with base personnel.

BP: Did they see these numbers? What did they say?

T.B.  Yes, they did, but I’m not going to get into internal communications.

The Navy is obligated, under NEPA, to conduct impact studies prior to any significant deployment to an area. But the good faith of these assessments are often put into question.

In November 2013 retired Navy Pilot, John Hammerstrom, blew the whistle on what he claimed was a fraudulent environmental assessment published by the Navy to allow the F-35 joint strike fighter jet to train at Naval Air Station Key West. A year earlier, the County Commission had voted unanimously to send a 12-page letter to the Navy requesting it reconsider the controversial draft assessment. The Navy declined.

The Triton Draft EA made public this week is perplexing. It avoids mentioning the most important defect of the Triton: the lack of a 'sense and avoid' guidance system. The Triton, which has no onboard pilot and flies at over 350 mph, day and night, is not always able to provide a warning when it is on a possible collision course. Its radar will detect larger commercial aircraft, but not small private planes flying in the area. The MQ-4G Triton does not remain at high altitudes; it makes frequent low-altitude recognizance missions. Classic 'sense and avoid' radar systems have thus far remained incompatible with the other radar and sensors the Triton uses for its surveillance mission. The Navy has promised to implement "procedures and training to mitigate for the problem."

Northrop Grumman has recently announced that it expects to have a specially adapted 'sense and avoid' radar system on the Triton by late 2019. However, the adaptation has been described as extremely challenging. Shouldn't the draft EA probe public concerns about having such "challenging" equipment flying in and out of a densely populated area? The draft EA makes no mention of it.

Northrop Grumman is one of the largest arms manufacturers and providers of civilian military personnel – including a number of reconnaissance pilots who tragically fell into the hands of Colombian drug lords.

The decision regarding where to home-base the Triton is likely to illustrate the difficulty civilians, concerned with a lack of affordable housing, will have attempting to reason with military men when it comes to modern warfare and national security.

In the Draft EA the Navy claims that “the air station has limited options on what they can do for on station family housing” […] “It is assumed that all 400 personnel (and their dependents) would seek housing in the Key West and Lower Keys area.”

Yet the government’s own documents show that NAS Key West is one of the largest transient rental operators in Key West.  According to the Draft EA, NAS Key West owns “315 visitor quarter rooms on Truman Annex,” “270 visitor quarter units on Trumbo Point,” and an unspecified number of "transient units" at Boca Chica.  These units are all part of the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites and are used for official travelers like visiting military units but are also open to “Reservists, Retirees, NAF or DoD civilians and sponsored guests.”

Additionally, a quick look at Google Earth’s most recent [2014] mapping for the area shows over 280 R.V. spots on Sigsbee Island, 165 on Trumbo Point and approximately 100 on Fleming Key.

And let’s not forget the 166 vacant “move-in ready” apartments on Sigsbee Island.

Maybe it's time for the Navy to tone down its transient rental business and focus more on housing.

~~~~~

Brown stressed that US Fleet Force Command is actively soliciting public comments from stakeholders and all interested parties. Any comments regarding rental housing vacancies in the Key West area or any other matter having to do with the Draft EA are welcome.  The review and comment period began on September 1 and extends through October 1.  You can access the Draft EA and leave your comments electronically by following the links provided.

From the Navy Press Release

The Draft EA was released on Thursday, September 1, and will be available for public review and comment from September 1, 2016 through October 1, 2016.

Comments may be submitted in writing to: Navy MQ-4C Triton UAS Home Basing Project Manager, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, Attn: Code EV21JB, 6506 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk, VA 23508. Comments must be postmarked by October 1, 2016.

Comments will also be accepted electronically beginning September 1 at the following link: http://www.public.navy.mil/usff/environmental/Pages/public-comments.aspx. Comments received from the public and federal, state and local agencies will be considered in the Final EA, which will be released to the public sometime this fall.

The Draft EA will be available at the following link: http://www.public.navy.mil/usff/environmental/Pages/NEPAprojects.aspx.

A printed copy and an electronic copy of the Draft EA for public review have also been placed in the following libraries:

• Monroe County Public Library, 700 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33040

• Florida Keys Community College Library, 5901 College Road, Key West, FL 33040

The Proposed Action would provide facilities and functions to operate and maintain the Triton UAS on the East Coast. The Triton UAS is an unmanned, unarmed, remotely controlled aircraft employed to enhance maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities as part of the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force.

Under the Proposed Action, the Navy plans to establish a launch and recovery site for four home based Triton UAS aircraft and support a consolidated maintenance hub for up to four additional aircraft undergoing maintenance actions (up to eight aircraft total).

The East Coast home base location would be a permanent duty station for up to 400 personnel plus family members, and support rotational deployments of personnel and aircraft outside the continental United States.

Military construction projects in support of the home basing would begin in fiscal year 2017.

The Triton UAS is a multiple-sensor unmanned aircraft that is about 48 feet long with a wingspan of about 131 feet. Triton UAS will conduct operations over water, with most operations occurring over international waters 12 miles or more offshore.

The mission of the Triton UAS is to provide persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data collection to the fleet, providing both tactical and strategic mission capabilities.

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, publishers and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Additionally the Girards have become well known for their in-depth investigations into local governments' sometimes questionable dealings with high dollar developers. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.

  9 Responses to “A FEW GOOD LIES”

  1. Homestead Air Reserve Base, has plenty of room and housing,
    Which is not in the “Look”.
    But being near Duval St. has it’s priority.
    Is Key West/Monroe Co. getting stretch – marks, with big box needing
    housing and ROGO is soon gone? All the illegal rentals is more than
    enough for the Military and Private business.
    Two more years of spend and deeper debt.
    I love this town of 26,000 with 100 Bubbas (untouchables).
    Film at 11…400 sq. ft. for $3,000, F, L, S, shared Kitchen, shared Bath.
    Call – OU-812 or BR-549 …. Leave Green Dot Number …

  2. Besides the issue of running roughshod over this community, according to Wikipedia the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Program cost, US$12,766.5m (as of FY15). Unit cost. US$120.689m (FY15) US$182.378m (inc R&D).

    I’m constantly flabbergasted at the amount of money that is thrown at the sacred military..Mind boggling incomprehensible amounts of cash have disappeared without a peep from those “taxpayers” that lose their minds over a child receiving food stamps. In 2015 alone 6.5 TRILLION dollars mysteriously vanished with out a trace. The pentagon is clueless!

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/23/politics/us-army-audit-accounting-errors/

    Where is the outrage? Everyone wants military defense and security, that is a given, but come on! This quote by our 34th president and Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in WW2, republican Dwight Eisenhower was prophetic.

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?”

    This community doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell going against the Navy. They will get what they want if they want it. The old adage “War is Good for Business” is truer today than ever before.

    Excellent article! Blue does it again!

  3. BIZARRE – the Navy’s view of Key West housing crisis and the Navy not using its own housing to house these new Navy personnel, if the drone base comes to Key West.

    BRAVO for blowing the whistle, Naja and Arnaud.

    I thought John Hammerstrom went after the Navy over the F 18 not having undergone prior impact study? Perhaps that included the F 35?

  4. Don’t forget about the indirect jobs that will be created and the additional housing that will be necessary for those people if this were to happen.

    The Navy’s own research shows that the current 3,000 NAS jobs create about 2,000 indirect jobs. If the Navy were to bring in 400 new military and contractor jobs (not counting dependents), that would indicate an additional 264 indirect jobs. Those newly employed indirect workers would also bring along their own dependents as well.

    In short, we aren’t talking about 900 new people coming to Key West. Instead, we are talking about more than 1,200 people, and well 600 units will be used from our already depleted housing supply.

  5. The responsible thing for our Commissioners to do is politely ask them not to come given that there is no housing and often military spouses further depress the local wages. The result is a death spiral of affordable housing and livable wages.

  6. The Navy has determined that the governing bodies of Key West and its adjacent communities are ripe with corruption and easy takings. The flavor of the day being over-development, rift with denser housing complexes and habitat destruction.

    For years Key West and Monroe County has led the way in abandoning its own laws, codes and ordinances; so that another building project can be constructed and crammed onto a less than adequate parcel of land.

    The Navy has a lot of Allies in its pursuit of 400++ family increase into Key West. Not having addressed nor taken care of business; regarding over-development, environmental destruction of our fragile aquatic ego-system and quality of life issues; Key West and the Florida Keys have already made a case for the Navy….

    Make way for Homeland Security, Surveillance, Terrorist Prevention? and Drone Reconnaissance (Strikes?)….

  7. Smoke and mirrors, promises, affordable housing issues by ‘concerned’ elected officials for 30 years (people keep re-electing), and puppet democracies. So the Navy wants public input? Yes while their ear plugs remain. This drone sounds dangerous not being able to detect small planes and flying at 350 mph – looks like there will be ‘collateral damage’. Welcome to America. I’d say it’s a done deal. Good luck Key West 🙁

  8. That Navy drone article is really kind of a joke. They could operate the human control of drones stationed here from Afghanistan if they wanted to. it’s a fly by private internet protocol mission. The bravery of being out of range…

    If they need humans for physical support, I can’t imagine they need 400 people to real world operate the drones – repair, fueling, washing them, whatever.

    As far as danger to other aircraft, that’s really not a factor. Those things would depart with a corridor that is restricted to only military flights under positive control. That’s done from afar usually too. Piped in “viewing” of the digitized radar return. That’s watched and controlled by either FAA controllers or by military “gas station attendants”, i.e. Navy personnel.

    I used to work enroute radar air traffic control for the FAA. F15’s out of Ellington Field (Texas) that would go down south of Galveston into a Military Operations Area offshore (MOA). Typically the F15’s would chase around a Lear Jet – rat a tat tat. They were training to intercept drug smugglers mainly, or the occasional Cuban MIG that decided to become a hero traitor and jump ship. The operators on the military end were over at Navy Pensacola as I recall, and they were called “Oak Grove”. Typically, they didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground about anything to do with air traffic control. Thus the gas station operator designation.

    Once you are about 150 miles off shore, you are not in U.S. airspace any more. I highly doubt we would be handing off control or air traffic advisory to Commie Cuba. Traffic monitoring and control would not be necessary in the restricted entry/exit, and it sounds like they are at high altitude, so jet traffic in commercial airspace would be avoided via commercial planes having to be in positive control at all times above FL 180.

    The really bad joke is housing all those people off base. Great. Now the $1200 one bedroom apartment is $1800. You starting to see why the money grabbing clowns over at City Hall thought Peary Court was such a great deal? How about to house these Navy folks and get paid by U.S. military funding. That isn’t “affordable housing”, and never was going to be. Those city criminals were going to line their pockets having chums fix it up and run their new Peary Tale. Another example of liars and thieves running the Keys…

  9. Maybe the Feds are really sending their people to KW to investigate all of the complaints about corruption and murder, and will eventually break up the KW mob!!

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