Future of NAS Whidbey bright, prosperous

Congressman Rick Larsen visited Oak Harbor Saturday to underscore the base’s solid position as the military realigns its facilities.

Larsen’s visit came the day after Whidbey Island Air Station supporters learned to their relief that the base was not included on the Pentagon’s list of proposed base closures.

While he’s thankful NAS Whidbey won’t be at the center of deliberations during Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) discussions to come, Larsen emphasized work for Whidbey isn’t over.

“We’re at the beginning of a sprint,” he said.

Larsen, and other members of the Washington delegation on Capitol Hilll, will continue promoting Whidbey’s assets, strengthening the base and priming it for expansion during the realignment process.

Until late this year when the BRAC process is complete, with everything signed and sealed, no timeline for transferring people and material will be established.

But in the next years, more people, equipment and tasks will relocate to NAS Whidbey.

Whidbey’s Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department will disappear. In its place a Fleet Service Center will handle high-level maintenance of aircraft. And it won’t necessarily be limited to work on EA-6B Prowlers and P-3 Orions, the planes currently stationed at Whidbey. It could could become a center for aviation repair and training for the F/A 18G, the Prowler’s replacement, and the MMA, the P-3 replacement.

But Larsen stressed that a decision on stationing these aircraft here is not expected soon, as everything’s still in the study and discussion stages.

But the congressman’s final statement Saturday was strong, as he spoke to a group of Oak Harbor leaders, including Mayor Patty Cohen.

“I see BRAC as a confirmation that the Pentagon recognizes NAS Whidbey plays a crucial part of homeland defense,” Larsen said.

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