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New jobs coming to Dahlgren
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By RUSTY DENNEN
The Navy's Dahlgren base in King George County is getting yet another infusion of jobs and expertise that will expand its role in the nation's missile defense.
Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said last night that the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren will host the new Navy Air and Missile Defense Command.
The new command will begin in April with 75 military and civilian employees combined, and an annual payroll of about $10 million.
Roughead spoke to about 200 business and industry representatives at the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Council at the University of Mary Washington's Jepson Alumni Executive Center.
Roughead said that with growing missile threats from countries such as Iran and North Korea, the command will serve as the Navy's lead organization and as a "center of excellence" to address combined air and missile defense concerns.
The initial focus will be on detecting, tracking, intercepting and destroying ballistic missiles. Eventually, it will encompass the Navy's entire integrated air and missile defense.
Roughead said the Navy demonstrated its expertise with the precision missile shoot-down last year of an errant spy satellite by a ship at sea.
"What was most important to me: When the button was pressed, it was pressed by a United States Navy sailor, not someone with a lab coat" he said.
Initially, the new command will be in existing buildings next to Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. That command opened in October 2007 and already has 350 employees, and plans an expansion of its facilities over the next two years.
Its commander, Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, said last night that the new Navy Air and Missile Defense Command "expands our battle space" from the surface into space. Hicks will also be heading up the development of that facility.
Eventually, another flag officer will be brought in to oversee it, he said.
With grave threats abroad, "We have to be several steps ahead" in technology and coordination, "and this will give us the ability to do that," said Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, a member of the Military Affairs Council, which has been working with the Navy on the project.
"The proliferation of ballistic missiles is a dynamic threat throughout the world and this command enhances our Navy's ability to deliver an enduring, operationally effective and supportable ballistic missile defense capability."
The Dahlgren base and its tenant commands employ about 8,600 civilian, military and contract employees combined. Employment at the base, opened in 1918 to test Navy guns, has been growing in recent years.
Last spring, the Navy announced that 125 jobs in research and development and testing from South Carolina and California would be shifted to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the base's largest tenant command.
They will be housed in a new building to be completed next year.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431