Congress again denies SEALs 'performance center'

A Navy SEAL candidate swings to an elevated cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course at Little Creek, Va., on May 11, 2013. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course.


By MIKE HIXENBAUGH | The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot (TNS) | Published: December 31, 2014

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Tribune News Serivce) — For the second year in a row, Congress declined to pay for a couple of "Human Performance Centers" for Navy SEALs based in Hampton Roads, Va.

The SEALs say they need the centers to stay healthy. The Pentagon says it needs them to protect its financial investment. Some lawmakers, apparently, are wondering why commandos can't just go to a gym like anyone else.

Which raises a good question: What the heck is a human performance center?

Lt. Cmdr. Li Cohen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Special Operations Command, attempted to explain via email:

"Gyms are self-service, one-dimensional facilities staffed with enough people to maintain and manage the facility," Cohen wrote. "A Human Performance Center is equipped and staffed with specialists from different fields who take a holistic approach by combining physical and psychological performance with nutrition and rehabilitative conditioning to ensure special operators reach and maintain peak levels of physical and mental performance."

Last year, the service asked for about $11 million to build a human performance center at Dam Neck Annex, home to the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team 6. This year, it asked for about the same amount to build a second center at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, home to four other SEAL teams. Congress hasn't approved money for either project.

It seems there's been some confusion about the requests. The Internet buzzed last year after a national media outlet reported on the first denial, with some bloggers wondering what was wrong with the existing facilities.

Cohen explained the funding requests in business terms: The Pentagon spends about $500,000 over five years to train just one special operator. And then the servicemember is put through a wringer of constant combat deployments, which often leads to chronic physical and mental injuries.

A human performance center would protect that financial investment by connecting SEALs with specialists who can help "prevent injuries, increase the speed of recovery and ultimately extend the operational life of the force," Cohen wrote.

Operators at Little Creek and Dam Neck already receive that sort of care and training, but they have to shuttle among several facilities, Cohen wrote. Which leads to the heart of the Pentagon's argument:

At half-a-million bucks apiece, SEALs have more important things to do with their time.

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