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CNO Tells BRAC Commissioners Navy Needs NAS Oceana

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050804-15
Release Date: 8/4/2005 5:46:00 PM

From Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen told members of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission Aug. 4 that Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana is central to the Navy's current readiness and that he fully supports the Department of Defense's original recommendations for an East Coast master jet base.

“That base, certainly for the foreseeable future, is NAS Oceana,” Mullen said.

In his first testimony since assuming duties as the Chief of Naval Operations July 22, Mullen said NAS Oceana continues to play a significant role in ensuring the effective training and readiness of naval air crews for present and future threats.

July 19th, the BRAC Commission voted to formally consider several additions to the Department of Defense's base realignment and closure recommendations. Included in the vote for further consideration was NAS Oceana. Virginia Sen. John Warner invited the CNO to testify on behalf of the Navy’s position.

Closing the base, Mullen emphasized, is neither effective nor affordable, and "violates the very principles upon which the Navy BRAC process was based, which included improving readiness, fostering jointness, eliminating excess capacity, saving taxpayer dollars, and improving the quality of life of our people and their families."

Mullen said he assumed his duties at a time when recapitalizing the Navy is critical and one of his top priorities. "The funds necessary to leave Oceana and build an entirely new Master Jet Base somewhere else would directly compete with my ability to do that. I simply do not have the resources to do so," he said.

Mullen told the panel that encroachment - the growth of residential and commercial development around NAS Oceana - has negatively impacted training there. It was one of the reasons the Navy has considered long-term alternatives to the base.

“Though I am comfortable that the critical skills our pilots need to safely fly and operate from the decks of aircraft carriers are currently supported by Oceana and Fentress (Outlying Landing Field),” he said, “encroachment remains a problem and has grown worse over the last few years.”

The CNO stressed that both the Navy and the local community of Virginia Beach share dual responsibility for the difficulties caused by encroachment but told the panel that he was “increasingly troubled over a trend in recent years of local government in turning a blind eye to Navy concerns in favor of housing developers.”

The recent adoption of the 2005 Hampton Roads Joint Land Use Study will help the Navy and local officials work more closely together to mitigate "incompatible growth,” Mullen noted.

With that level of cooperation, coupled with the construction of the Outlying Field in Washington County, N.C., Mullen said he sees "a robust future for Oceana as the Navy's premier East Coast master jet base."

“We know how important it is to our training; we know how important it is to our preparation for warfighting; and we know how important it is to be good neighbors, and we will continue to be,” Mullen said.

The nine-member BRAC commission panel is obligated to send its recommendations to the president by Sept. 8.

The president has until Sept. 23 to accept all recommendations or reject all of them. Congress will have 45 days to accept the president's recommendations or reject them in whole. The Defense Department will be obligated to act on all congressionally approved recommendations.

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