Stennis has new NAVO building

Published 11:49 pm Thursday, May 28, 2009

Consolidation of Naval Oceanographic offices in the John C. Stennis compound was showcased Thursday morning as the ribbon was cut on NAVOCEANO’s new 171,000 square foot building.

The event introduced the public to the new building, and the public was able to take a tour of the facility after the ceremony.

Capt. James Berdeguez said the building will allow NAVOCEANO the opportunity for sailors and Navy employees at NAVOCEANO to conduct their work more efficiently. Most of the laboratories and offices that were previously spread across space center are now consolidated into the new building, which is within walking distance of the agency’s headquarters complex. Having all the labs and offices under one roof will help each department work together more effectively, Berdeguez said.

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Inside the building, personnel, about 800 of whom are civilians, maintain and collect data from equipment that is deployed in and on the world’s oceans. That equipment gathers ocean data such as current activity, salinity and ocean temperature.

Berdeguez said some of that equipment, such as the glider, can be remotely piloted from within the new building no matter where in the world a glider is operating. That information is gathered and relayed to Navy commands around the world for use in making tactical decisions.

“We don’t just do oceanography for oceanography’s sake. We do it for the war fighters,” Berdeguez said during the ceremony.

Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Technical Director Ed Gough said that data will give commanders on the seas the confidence to conduct maneuvers and make decisions in the best interest of national defense.

Congressman Gene Taylor said some of the work done at NAVOCEANO helped citizens of the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Observations conducted there gave residents the proof they needed to show that the Gulf Coast suffered from four hours of hurricane force wind before the storm surge washed ashore, prompting insurance companies to pay claims.

Since about half of America’s naval fleet is constructed in Mississippi, the work conducted at NAVOCEANO will help the Navy’s current and future ships navigate and hide safely. That information will be vital to protecting the country’s investment.

Not only can the information provided by NAVOCEANO help submarines find places to hide, but that information also can help their crews find the submarines of adversaries that may be hiding.

Taylor said the most expensive ship can cost as much as $6 billion, though there has been a recent decision to move to ships that cost less than $1.5 billion. Some new technology in the works for the Navy’s new fleet includes use of electromagnetic devices to launch planes and weapons from the ship. That technology is being researched in Tupelo, Taylor said.

Other changes will include the move to nuclear-powered ships to cut down on the use of fossil fuels.

“We don’t want our fleet calling up Hugo Chavez … for a refill,” Taylor said.