Gov’t actions for Fort Monmouth, Sandy Hook are disturbing

Peter P. O’Such Jr. Guest Column

I want to call the public’s attention to, and make them aware of, the disturbing and alarming pattern of conduct that our government officials, federal and state, have apparently chosen for carrying out their official duties, especially when these officials are asked by a lawful public entity to pass judgment/rule on governmental plans that are thought to be contrary to law, regulation and/or the public good. The tactic that we are seeing used by government officials is to simply and totally ignore the hard, clear "smoking gun" facts presented by the public entity seeking redress to the government’s plan in question. This abhorrent government procedure of ignoring the obvious facts is surely not Solomonic justice by any stretch of the imagination.


Such instances of late where this tactic has been used are listed below:

1) The federal employees of Fort Monmouth and their union recently lost in their lawsuit to have the fatally flawed BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure] Commission decision to close Fort Monmouth overturned. The BRAC decision has been proven to be based on faulty economic data. The cost for the move to Aberdeen, Md., has more than doubled, and more importantly, the mission success for our troops is being jeopardized. The latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states that it will take eight to 13 years after the proposed planned closing of Fort Monmouth before the Army recovers the full complement and caliber of scientists and engineers that support the global war on terrorism today.

Why wasn’t this study done before the BRAC decision was made? Wouldn’t that have been prudent? Yet, the judge ruled the plaintiffs (employees and union) had no standing and the lawsuit was dismissed without examining the facts presented. Why is this terribly flawed BRAC decision not being rescinded before the real harm is done? The Department of Defense (DOD) is attempting to speed up the closure of Fort Monmouth in order to make a reversal of the BRAC decision less desirable. The DOD must not be allowed to succeed on this matter. The DOD and BRAC are wrong.

2) Representative Christopher Smith (RNJ) requested that a federal audit be conducted by the Department of Defense inspector general 16 months ago, particularly requesting a "thorough investigation — including a comprehensive security threat assessment." This was not done. Instead, in its report, the Pentagon supported the Naval Weapons Station Earle housing plan to allow 300 civilians housing units on this currently restricted-access base. More unbelievably, this same report stated that it (DOD) did not study the sufficiency of the security measures. In Rep. Smith’s own words: "They punted on the key threat assessment question that I asked," and "the report is incomplete." Why is such failure to perform allowed?

3) The two lawsuits brought by Save Sandy Hook (SSH) LLC and heard in U.S. District Court, Trenton, fell prey to exactly the same tactic as the BRAC-proposed closing of Fort Monmouth. Each time, SSH lost in court because the same judge, who made the ruling cited in 1) above that Fort Monmouth employees and their union had no standing, also failed to examine and rule on the pertinent procurement defects associated with the NPS plan to commercially development Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook. The basis for the judge’s decree was that the plaintiff (SSH) did not have standing. Being concerned U.S. citizens and the rightful owners of Fort Hancock was apparently not enough in the judge’s view. Let us hope that the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals does not use this same tactic, and actually examines the numerous fatal flaws presented by Save Sandy Hook in its lawsuit, expected to be heard in September.

4) In the summer of 2007, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. requested the inspector general of the Department of Interior to investigate the National Park Service procurement for the commercial development of Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook. Over a year later, Rep. Pallone is still waiting for the report he requested. Is the fact that Rep. Pallone has publicly expressed his opposition to the NPS’s plan to commercialize Fort Hancock the cause of the delay? Is he being disrespected, as are we, the public? Or did the DOI IG conclude the NPS’s actions to date are improper, and need to be kept from the public? We may never know.

5) And lastly, the gallant people who fought to save the Highlands bridge realistically thought the "smoking gun" evidence of the state having used illegal means to obtain land essential for the new bridge construction, would cause the state of New Jersey to postpone destruction of the existing bridge and to re-examine its plans. Instead, the state said the unlawful acquisition of this land would have no impact on its plan to proceed as originally stated. What was the state thinking? Why do we permit such action?

How and why is such aberrant behavior tolerated by the good citizens of our country? Why is our government not held accountable? Our government is supposed to serve us, not subjugate us.

Please contact your elected representatives; tell them you are angry, and tell them to put an end to the unacceptable behavior of our government officials. We all deserve better treatment. We must expect it and demand it. Otherwise, we are nothing more than sheep, with no say in our and our children’s futures.

Peter P. O’Such Jr. is a resident of Fair Haven