Published January 22. 2013 4:00AM
In the death of John C. Markowicz, the state Friday lost an irreplaceable advocate for its Naval Submarine Base, but in large part because of his efforts Connecticut and the region are better positioned to ward off any future attempts to close the Groton base.
Mr. Markowicz led a distinguished and notable career long before he became a central figure in the successful effort in 2005 to persuade the federal Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to remove the base from the Pentagon's closure list.
He was a 1965 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and rose to the rank of captain in the submarine service. In 1976 he left active duty, but continued in the Naval Reserve, his military career spanning 34 years. Mr. Markowicz was instrumental in the growth of the defense technology contracting company Sonalysts Inc. Following his success there, he became the leader of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, a pioneering public-private regional economic development agency. Joining in 1997, he was the executive director until the cancer that would take his life at age 68 forced him to step aside.
But it was his pivotal role in the bipartisan effort to prevent the closing of the submarine base in Groton, so critical to the region's economy, for which he will be most remembered. Because of his experience, Mr. Markowicz knew what points Connecticut and its military, elected and business leaders needed to make to demonstrate the military value of the base. His focused leadership, persuasive skills and determination not to let the effort stray from its central message proved essential in the successful Save the Base effort.
As importantly, and perhaps less appreciated, Mr. Markowicz deserves a final salute for recognizing the job did not end with the commission's decision to keep the base open. Connecticut had to remain diligent, he frequently warned.
Working on a commission appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, and sometimes against political resistance in Hartford, he led the push for innovative steps to secure the base's future. Those efforts helped lead to the creation of a Connecticut Office of Military Affairs, which works not only in the interest of the submarine base, but in protecting the state's vital defense industry; and to an unprecedented state/federal partnership in which Connecticut has invested $11 million in base improvements.
"The entire region owes John a huge debt of gratitude for the work he did on the sub base," said Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President Tony Sheridan. Indeed it does.