Concord residents should be proud they have a port, and that it contains the good name of Concord. This port used to be one of Concord's major employers, with paychecks rippling throughout our economy. It still is to a point.
It was and still is an important part of our national defense, supplying our fighting forces during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. While most of our Middle East armament is currently sent from the East Coast, though not announced and quietly, our Military Ocean Terminal Concord is still needed, with ships coming and going.
Because the West Coast is our nation's flank and we are, as FDR said, "the Arsenal of Democracy," there is the potential for future wars on the Pacific Rim with a nuclear North Korea and our ally Nationalist China under threat from Red China. We must protect Hawaii, the Aleutians, our western states and the coasts of Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, so it would be wise to maintain Concord's important military location.
With the base closures that have already occurred throughout California, the ones that remain have an even higher importance that, in times of war, cannot be easily replaced.
For example, to transport ammunition and explosives from the West Coast of the United States, ships are the safest and best manner to do so (just like bringing in cars and goods from China), and there are now only three West Coast ports able to do that.
With today's large transport ships, the facilities at Seal Beach (next to Long Beach), and on Indian Island (near Seattle) are minor, unable to load one complete ship at dockside: the ships have to go off port with tugboats to complete the loading.
This compares to Concord having three large piers and cranes already built to completely load three such ships concurrently. There is also the acreage to store, stage and prepare munitions and troops, as well as a 2.5 mile blast buffer, compared to virtually no buffer at Long Beach or Indian Island.
With more than 6,700 acres in unincorporated Contra Costa County, Concord is by far the largest and able to ramp up or down as national defense needs occur.
At Concord's facility, the rail lines, docks, cranes, switching tracks, storage, roads, security measures and land are worth billions, and are already built and operational. Its Coast Guard port covers five miles of coastline and the Delta, and it can be supported by air from Travis Air Force Base. There are big hills between its docks and Concord, and it is already very well guarded against terrorists or saboteurs.
Unlike Seal Beach and Indian Island, ships in this deep water port can be loaded easily and safely, ready to cross the Pacific to support our troops and allies whenever needed.
And it is a good neighbor, leasing the Diablo Creek Golf Course and Willow Pass ball fields land to Concord for a pittance, providing some needed housing for underpaid military families in the Bay Area, and is open space for the roaming tule elk, and preserves the wetlands and untouched hills and creeks.
The Oakland Army Terminal is now closed and being developed, and Hamilton Field, Camp Stoneman, Moffit Field and Camp Parks are also closed.
Given the Martinez Veterans Affairs hospital is nearby, our reserves need meeting and training facilities, and the nearest veterans cemetery is in Dixon, we need this Bay Area facility to stay open, and if anything, to be even more utilized.
With today's environmental requirements and rocky Pacific shoreline, to replace this facility with another one could probably not be accomplished, and would itself cost new billions we don't have.
So with all these factors, it makes good sense that the BRAC process stopped its reduction of this important base at the Highway 4 dividing line.
Concord, the people of California and the nation should be aware of and proud of the important role this facility plays in our national defense. It is an asset to our region and to our nation that our troops, ships and planes have the munitions and support they need to protect us and prevail when needed.
Concord is a wonderful city with great features and benefits, with this important base being one of them. Rather than trying to close the remaining portion of the base, we should be celebrating it as the asset it is.
In these troubled times we need a strong national defense more than we need more condominiums or cars on the roads.
Laurence is a resident of Clayton, a former Clayton mayor and City Council member, and Vietnam veteran.