Jim Nollman writes…….. thanks, Jim



I live on San Juan Island. We hear the growlers daily, although they must be 10 miles away. We’ve known about your Growler problem for years, but it only started affecting us seriously in the past year. We suddenly hear them six or eight times a day. For now, they stay several miles away. If you didn’t know what the sound was, you’d think thunder.

I was a Navy contractor for 7 years, a job that ended at the start of 2014. Officially, I served as a whale behavioral acoustician in a program tasked to mitigate danger to whales during sonar exercises. Actually, as the contract developed, I became the program’s unofficial whale defender. I recall giving a presentation that demonstrated to Navy policy makers the discouraging impossibility that any public outcry could actually change established Navy policy. No protest can get a fair hearing, because the bureaucracy is too vast for either fairness or hearings-that-matter. As one internal Navy group becomes engaged to hear the complaints, other groups with equal authority stop paying attention. Some who operate within this labyrinth are tasked to spin fake solutions, and sometimes fund several different solutions that effectively contradict one another.

Another issue is that any hardware (Growlers), any public dismay Coupeville), any environmental disaster (whales) is ultimately viewed through the lens of national security. Which is more important to national security, a multibillion dollar Growler program or Coupeville? Yes, certainly this is the wrong question, and deeply unfair to you. But it is the question that gets asked anyway. How it gets answered depends entirely on who is deciding on any specific day. One day the decider may be your local admiral, who has to live near you, and field your complaints. But he deals with 15 or 20 or 80 or 100 other people with authority in other departments. he won’t say this, but he probably has no good idea, who (if anyone) can actually make the decision you seek. That’s the way its been set up.

The only thing I saw in my entire tenure that was capable of eliciting a real change in Navy policy was litigation. Lawsuits cost the Navy about $10 million per shot. Many inside the DoD regard this as money taken from their greater goal to protect America from harm. But as we found out while trying to protect whales from harm that could have been avoided with a little bit of care, the current Supreme Court really does believe that the Navy only needs to abide by some laws, and hardly at all to environmental law.

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  1. citizensofthereserve

    This is not how our military should work. Something is wrong here, very wrong.

  2. liz

    Thank you Jim! Also dear COER…I am going to have to disagree with you on one item. The only relief from these excessive technological “experiments” in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and Whidbey Island is to close NASWI. This base should simply be moved (with the Growlers) to an area that has been already devastated by military training….damage control! Fallon, Nevada and China Lake come to mind.

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