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“Basewatch” is an avenue to understand US military installations on our doorstep

Discover the physical and human imprint of Western Washington’s military bases with a group of Evergreen students

A Virginia-class nuclear attack sub deployed in 2011, at a cost of $3.4-$5.5 billion each.
A Virginia-class attack sub deployed in 2011, at a cost of $3.4-$5.5 billion each.

In A People’s Geography of American Empire, students at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington looked at US expansion from Manifest Destiny and overseas imperial conquests, to present-day resource wars.

The arc of expansion in the Pacific NW

The Winter 2018-19 program focused on the place-making processes inherent in each stage of expansion, and on the imprints they have left on the human and physical landscape. It examined imperial places that have been shaped by each era of expansion, and in turn have shaped each era. The program covered the continuous historical arc of expansion, from the Indian frontier wars to colonialism in the Pacific and Caribbean, to occupations in Middle East “tribal regions.”

This expansion has come full circle as immigrants arrive from formerly colonized lands, and wars at home are waged against occupied communities. In addition to the origins and rationales underlying each stage of expansion, students explored how and to what extent the world’s landscape reflects and helps to (re)produce imperial power.

Making the interconnections

The program aimed to interconnect global and local scales, foreign and domestic policies, and past histories and present-day legacies. It examined the lasting imprints of imperial control on real local places, in particular the network of US military bases and counterinsurgency campaigns around the world.

A placemaking approach to hierarchies

The program made a geographical contribution to the study of American Empire by examining the making and remaking of imperial places, and using place-based approaches to examine hierarchies of race, nationality, class, and gender. Imperial places also offer stories of cooperation and resilience, healing, and hope. The class heard from speakers about Iraq, Central America, the Philippines, Okinawa, Guåhan (Guam), and Hawai’i.

The class, taught by faculty member Zoltán Grossman (Geography and Native Studies), took field trips to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Base Kitsap in October 2018, and to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (guided by Army and Nisqually Tribe employees) in January 2019.

In the winter of 2019, students in the course researched and documented western Washington military installations. The resulting case studies of land acquisition, place-making, deployment and dissent at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Naval Base Kitsap (NBK), and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) are presented on BASEWATCH.

A path to new awareness

Even though these bases are on our doorstep, we know little about how they got there, the impact they have had, and what activities originate there today. BASEWATCH offers an avenue to change that.

The hope is that the class website project contributes to the knowledge and debate around these local sites of global consequence. Participants in the class created the site in hopes that it will be a tool for the public to get an overview of the topics, and to get informed about military installations in our region. The references noted on each page are intended to assist public research.

Any opinions expressed on this website are those of the students, faculty, and/or their research sources, not of other students or faculty in the program, or of The Evergreen State College.

Your guide to Basewatch

Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord (JBLM)
(formerly Fort Lewis & McChord Air Force Base)

The Displacement of the Nisqually Tribe (Katie Dotson)

Fort Lewis Testing and Training (Donald Evans)

Fort Lewis and the Vietnam Era (Lincoln Koester)

Fort Lewis and the Wars in Iraq (Clayton Roessle)

Fort Lewis / JBLM’s Ground Forces in Afghanistan (Afghanistan Team)

Social Crises around JBLM (Breanna Strobele)

Civilian Dissent around Fort Lewis during the Iraq War (Carly Martin)

Military Dissent at Fort Lewis during the Iraq War (Zoltán Grossman)

Noise Pollution and HIMARS at JBLM (Jamie Klas)

Environmental Protection at JBLM (Zoltán Grossman)

The Public Face of JBLM (Eric Meyer)

Mapping Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Jade Francis)

Naval Base Kitsap (NBK)

Mapping Naval Base Kitsap (Inanna McCarty)

Trident Nuclear Submarines: Defense or Doomsday? (Henry Best)

Mapping the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific at Bangor (Brennan Stevenson)

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton (Harry Halsted)

Kitsap County: Military Dependency & Resistance (Conner Lyons)

Naval Station Everett (Seth Wright)

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI)

History of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (Erik Matsen)

Water Contamination on Whidbey Island (Josh Miller)

Noise Issues and Growler Flight Expansion (Shoni Fuqua)

Mapping Whidbey Island’s Noise & Accident Potential Zones (Ari Johnson)

Electromagnetic War Games over the Olympic Peninsula (John Lace)

Mapping the Olympic Peninsula Training Area (Kevin Givens)

More History on the Virginia-Class Attack Sub

In 2010 – Virginia-class submarines are designed for a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions, including anti-submarine warfare and intelligence gathering operations. Virginia-class submarines will be acquired through 2043, and are expected to remain in service until at least 2060, with later submarines expected to remain into the 2070s. The cost was approximately $2 billion in 2010 dollars. The first full-duration six-month deployment was successfully carried out from 15 October 2009 to 13 April 2010.

In September 2010, it was found that urethane tiles, applied to the hull …were falling off while the subs were at sea. [35] In 2011, Admiral Kevin McCoy announced that the problems with the Mold-in-Place Special Hull Treatment for the early subs had been fixed in 2011. Then Minnesota was built and found to have the same problem.

In 2020 – In what appears to be the first public cost estimate for the SSN(X) program that would follow the Virginia-class SSNs, the Navy pegs SSN(X) costs at $3.4 billion per boat while CBO estimates $5.5 billion apiece. If the CBO estimate were correct, the Navy would be spending more than 60-percent more per hull than initially planned. [UN Naval Institute, October 2019 post]

One Comment

  1. Peter January 2, 2020

    Link does not work

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