When Vice Admiral Michael T. Moran spoke at the China Lake Alliance luncheon on Thursday, he wasted no time in discussing the aftermath of the historic Ridgecrest Earthquakes July 4 and 5.
Moran said that while the Navy and the Secretary of the Navy are committed to recapitalizing China Lake after the quakes, the earthquake rebuilding will not extend to new missions or capabilities.
Also up in the air is the exact source of the estimated $4 to $5 billion needed to rebuild, although Moran said the Navy is taking great pains to emphasis the mission-critical nature of China Lake to budget decision-makers.
"There's nobody walking away from any missions that are out here at China Lake," Moran said.
With his current job as Principal Military Deputy to Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition and as the former Commander of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Moran was well-positioned to bring news on how the Navy intends to deal with earthquake damage to China Lake.
Moran said that while "there is a strong commitment from the Navy and the Secretary of the Navy to recapitalize China Lake because of the uniqueness of what it is, what it has, and what it can bring to the United States Navy and really to the Department of Defense," the recapitalization will not extend to new missions.
"We are not going to recapitalize for new missions at China Lake," Moran said. "That's the official mantra. We are not re-building for new missions or capabilities. We are rebuilding China Lake to do what it is assigned to do as part of its mission for the Navy."
He added, "our stance is very clear. We have a mission. It's been severely degraded. It's impactful to the Navy and the Department and we need to recapitalize that capability."
Moran later noted that this restriction applies specifically to rebuilding as the result of earthquake damage.
“How this place grows otherwise will continue to be a debate as it always has been,” he said.
He also noted that China Lake's capabilities are also necessary because of a lack of spare facilities elsewhere.
"We have maximized capacity across the department in our ranges and our facilities. There is just nowhere else to go. Everyone else is full."
Moran said that despite awareness of the critical nature of China Lake to national defense, finding money is always a difficult prospect in the capital.
Thus, he said, "we have made a very, very strong argument in D.C. from the Navy perspective that this is something we've got to re-capitalize, we've got to re-capitalize quickly on the priorities that enable our programs to move forward. So that's an ongoing conversation."
Where exactly the money will come from for the rebuilding effort has not been determined.
"Quite frankly this will be a political decision in [fiscal year 2020] as the hill goes to conference and talks between the house and the senate on what kind of money gets allocated," he said. Moran later added that "I do think there is going to be money in [fiscal year 2020] and then we will be able to catch up in [fiscal year 2021] and [fiscal year 2022]."
He noted that the high price-tag of $4 billion to $5 billion is "just not a number that we have, that can be re-allocated in a year."
He noted that some funds are being shifted now "to get the facilities up, at least in a temporary status, to go do the work we need to do."
Adding to the difficulty, of course, is the fact that no one can say exactly how much it will cost to re-capitalize at China Lake.
The luncheon also served as a business meeting for the China Lake Alliance. Five board members were elected, including Arzell Hale and Paul Homer -- who were re-elected and Mallory Board, Paul Valovich and Peggy Breeden.