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Larsen predicts good future for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen is confident in the future of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
That’s the message he shared with members of the Oak Harbor Area Council of the Navy League, who gathered for their monthly meeting Tuesday at the Officers’ Club on NAS Whidbey. Larsen said the overall picture for the air station’s future is a good one.
“My assessment is we can rely on the base being here a long, long time,” he told the audience, which also included local and state politicians, city officials and other dignitaries and several Rotary Club members.
Larsen outlined several points he felt are a good indicator of NASWI’s continued presence on Whidbey Island, beginning with President Obama’s defense pivot to Asia. He said our allies and partners in the region all desire a strong U.S. presence there, which is good for the West Coast defense infrastructure already in place.
“This pivot bodes pretty well for the West Coast in terms of our military installations,” he said.
In terms of securing P-8A Poseidon aircraft at NAS Whidbey Island, Larsen said he feels confident there will be no changes to the Navy’s plans to make Whidbey Island one of the three installations to house the P-8A.
“I met recently with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, and without any prompting, Sec. Mabus brought up the 2008 Record of Decision,” Larsen said. “He confirmed that the decision stands strong.”
Another factor in NASWI’s favor, said Larsen, is its proximity to Alaska and the importance of the Navy’s Arctic Mission.
“The water off the north coast of Alaska is opening up and we will need to have a presence there for defense purposes,” he said. “Airborne assets are an easier way to do that and NAS Whidbey is a lot closer than Hawaii.”
Larsen earned a round of applause for his announcement that he doesn’t believe the budget for 2013 will include a round of Base Realignments and Closures (BRAC).
“The House Armed Services Committee meets Wednesday and we’ll be doing our mark up on the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013,” he said. “The House version will not include an authorization for a 2013 base closure round. I think we’re sitting pretty well in terms of BRAC.”
Larsen said he didn’t anticipate the Senate version of the act would include any base closure proposals, either.
The congressman also congratulated the Save NASWI Task Force for its continued efforts on behalf of the base.
“The level of energy and involvement of the community with the base here is unique,” Larsen said. “It’s great and refreshing and it’s useful when I’m talking with folks in the Navy. I would encourage you folks to keep that going.”
Other issues Larsen addressed included
homelessness within the veteran community, budget sequestration and Impact Aid for schools. On issues concerning NAS Whidbey, such as the wind turbines in Boardman, the replacement of jet fuel lines and a proposed wastewater treatment plant, he offered his support.
“These are important issues. My office is ready to help support your decisions,” he said.
Larsen spent the afternoon in downtown Oak Harbor, talking about economic development.