Letter: Navy’s ‘courtroom antics’ shouldn’t impress judge


Jessie Stensland’s March 14 Whidbey News-Times article addressed the Navy’s March 5 request of the court to consider a non-public, secret declaration of the U.S. assistant attorney general asking the court to take into account the Growler’s critical mission before the court rules on COER’s preliminary injunction to roll back carrier landing operations at the OLF to pre-2019 levels.

No one is allowed to see, read or hear that declaration other than the judge and the Navy; that includes COER’s board of directors and its attorneys. COER objects to the Navy’s secret courtroom antic. As one of its members mentioned, “It’s like blindfolding one of the boxers in a boxing match and claiming it to be a ‘fair fight,’” A reasonable judge will not be impressed or taken in.

The Navy says the declaration includes classified information that will explain the Growler’s critical role “in our national security and the potential national security risk that would arise if the motion for preliminary injunction is granted,” meaning if the Growler practice had to be moved off island.

Our organization has always accepted the Growler’s critical role in our national defense. It follows that proper pilot training is critical. Everyone agrees and respects that. However, COER does not accept that the OLF is “critical” — i.e., the only place in the United States where effective training is possible. If the OLF were actually critical, then where is the essential protection, where are the armed guards, where is the 20,000-acre security buffer surrounded with a chain-link barbed-wire fence?

What would happen if there was an earthquake that rendered the runway destroyed? Guess that would be it for national defense — no place left for critical Growler practice. Nonsense.

But that does raise an important question: Accepting that Growlers are indeed essential to our defense, why cluster them all in one small target area? Why not protect them by dispersal in multiple bases across the country? That is exactly what reasoned military policy requires and stipulates should be done. Why the exemption?

As always and by whatever peculiar reasoning — why does the OLF only operate under multiple exemptions— one after another? Too short in length, way short in buffer acreage, way too encroached on and woefully exempted from smart DoD multiple-siting policy.

Robert Wilbur

President, COER