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Top admiral reassures on Whidbey Poseidons
The Navy's top brass has reaffirmed that Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is still in line to receive four squadrons of the new P-8A Poseidon aircraft, according to a statement released today from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen's office.
Larsen, a Second District Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he recently met with Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of Naval Operations, for breakfast at the admiral's home in Washington, D.C.
“During our breakfast, I impressed upon Admiral Roughead the importance of the Navy in Washington, particularly at Naval Station Everett and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island," said Larsen, in the release.
He also "strongly reaffirmed" the need to follow the P-8A record of decision for NAS Whidbey Island, a document that outlines the replacement of P-3 Orion sub-hunters with the new P-8A Poseidon aircraft at existing maritime patrol home bases.
Earlier this year, the Navy announced that Jacksonville, Fla. and Kaneohe, Hawaii would be the first two homes of the new P-8A squadrons. The news led many to worry that this was just a first step in a move that would permanently cut NAS Whidbey Island out of the plan.
The four P-3 squadrons currently located at the airbase represent roughly 2,600 jobs. According to base spokeswoman Kimberly Martin, their payroll is believed to dump about $87 million into the island's economy every year. Each Poseidon squadron typically consists of eight aircraft.
Although a Navy Office of Information spokesman at the Pentagon recently confirmed that a study is under way to determine whether to permanently staff just two bases with Poseidons rather than three, Larsen said Roughead reiterated during their breakfast that the Navy's long-range plans have not changed. It still intends to send four P-8A squadrons to NAS Whidbey Island starting in 2017.
"He stated that the record of decision continues to stand and I reiterated that NAS Whidbey Island is an ideal location to be a home for the P-8A," the release said. "I will continue to push this message, both with Admiral Roughead and with others within the defense and naval communities."
The news release also reaffirmed that the transfer of the USS Nimitz to Naval Station Everett is going smoothly and as planned. It is to replace the USS Abraham Lincoln and is expected to arrive following maintenance at the naval shipyard in Bremerton.