NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - The Navy's spit-and-polish image is taking a bruising in southeast Virginia as it lets the grass go longer to cut costs.
In a move expected to save the Navy $1.9 million a year, Hampton Roads installations have instructed the civilian contractor responsible for lawn care to let grass grow 1 foot before cutting it.
It's part of the $4 billion the military has had to slash under the automatic cuts known as sequestration.
The Virginian-Pilot reported Friday that the grass at Norfolk Naval Station and other area bases was getting that bad neighbor look after days of rain.
At Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, visitors to the master jet base found tall grass and weeds.
"It's definitely noticeable," said Kelley Stirling, an Oceana spokeswoman. "Our sailors take a lot of pride in the appearance of the base, so it can be frustrating to see it like this."
The lawn neglect prompted some Marines stationed at Oceana to mow a section of grass where they do daily workouts, and a few other units hauled out mowers and weed-whackers to spruce up around their buildings.
Capt. Bob Geis, the base commander, wants to nip that in the bud. In a message published in the base newspaper, he said he understands their concerns, but he doesn't want to see uniformed service members pushing lawn mowers.
"Our Sailors and Marines already have a job to do ... I will not add `mowing the grass' to their job description," Geis wrote. "If we allowed our Sailors and Marines to cut the grass, this base would look better without a doubt. But all it would do is mask the reduced funding our grounds keepers are getting to do the job. In the long run, we must show what the impact is of the funding we receive."
In another economy move, the Navy has cut back on its regional janitorial contract. Sailors and their civilian counterparts are now required to take out the trash.
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