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Naval Operations chief assures Whidbey P-8As a go
The P-8As are coming to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, according to the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who visited Oak Harbor Tuesday with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.
After getting a tour of one of the new P-8A aircraft at Boeing in the morning, the two headed to Whidbey Island and made a brief stop between engagements on base at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7392 on Goldie Road in Oak Harbor to meet with local VFW officers and the media.
“Whidbey Island is in our future,” Greenert said. “(Bringing the P-8A to NAS Whidbey is) the Decision of Record and our plan is to remain committed to that decision.
“So I would say relax, that’s where we’re headed,” he continued.
According to Larsen, the Navy’s recent announcement to move a Reserve EA-6B squadron to NAS Whidbey is another good sign for the future role the base will continue to serve.
“It’s one more step in the Navy’s commitment to Oak Harbor and the Whidbey Island community,” Larsen said.
During a tour of NAS Whidbey, Greenert and Larsen looked at Hangar 5, which has been remodeled and currently houses four modern EA-18G Growler squadrons. They also looked at Hangar 6, which is home to the aircraft the Poseidon will replace — the P-3 Orion. The tour exemplified what the Navy is trying to do in the face of tighter budgets and fewer personnel.
“There will be some growth, but it’s more about modernizing our existing facilities,” Greenert said.
“Hangar 5 is a good example of recapitalizing existing assets rather than building something new,” agreed Larsen. “In the future, repurposing will be key to saving taxpayers money.”
The CNO, who is the senior uniformed officer in the Department of the Navy and acts as a military advisor to the Secretary of the Navy, said plans to bring Boeing-built Poseidons to Whidbey fit well with the Obama administration’s defense strategy, the so-called pivot to the Pacific.
“The P-8A and the capability it brings is a huge change from the four-engine turbo prop P-3s,” Greenert said. “It opens up a broad area of maritime surveillance capabilities.”
Regarding the subject of sequestration, $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts that will be implemented if members of Congress can’t agree on a spending plan, Greenert said it would have a huge impact on the Navy.
“To summarily go in and cut everything across the board, to say the least, would be destructive,” he said.
“I still think we can find a way to achieve deficit reduction without sequestration,” Larsen added. “And I think there’s still a balanced and fair way to do that.”
This was Greenert’s first visit to NAS Whidbey Island since becoming CNO last September. Base commander, Capt. Jay Johnston, was pleased with the experience.
“I was happy to show off the base and our community,” Johnston said.
VFW officers were also happy to host the brief visit.
“I’m a 20-year Navy veteran,” said Post Commander Keith Wooldridge. “The VFW definitely serves vets, so it’s good he came here.”
“I think it shows the stability of the base itself for him to visit,” agreed Pete Sills. “It shows we’re on the map.”
Greenert wrapped up his Whidbey Island visit with an all-hands call at the Skywarrior Theater on the Ault Field base.