Defense Act funds allots millions for NAS Whidbey

Touch-and-go operations for the Navy’s EA-18G Growler resumed around 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, at Outlying Field Coupeville, part of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Operations at OLF have been suspended since May. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Touch-and-go operations for the Navy’s EA-18G Growler resumed around 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, at Outlying Field Coupeville, part of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Operations at OLF have been suspended since May.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will receive more than $117 million for P8-A Poseidon and EA-18G Growler squadron programs.

The funding is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama over Christmas.

The act sets the policies and priorities for the Department of Defense.

NAS Whidbey is slated to receive funding for three construction projects. A total of $32 million is allotted for EA-18G facility improvements, $85 million for P8-A facilities and $10 million to replace the fuel pier breakwater.

An Environmental Impact Statement process for both aircraft types are underway.

The base is expected to receive six or seven P8-A squadrons starting in 2015. In addition, the Navy is considering NAS Whidbey for the addition of two EA-18G expeditionary squadrons in 2016.

Capt. Mike Nortier, NAS Whidbey’s commanding officer, said the funding allotment speaks to the integral role that the base plays in the Navy’s military strategy.

“While we are still waiting for Congress to pass the appropriations bill, the prioritized projects contained in the defense bill have been identified as important to the fleet and underscore the importance of NAS Whidbey Island’s strategic role for the Navy’s readiness, even in a tough fiscal environment,” Nortier said in an emailed statement.

In total, the federal bill appropriates $3.2 billion for the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon program and provides full funding, $1.6 billion, for a refueling tanker being constructed at The Boeing Co.’s Everett facility.

“This defense bill meets the needs of our sailors and aviators in Northwest Washington and our troops around the world,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

Larsen said he facilitated language in the bill to help small- and medium-sized businesses secure government contracts.

“Small- and medium-sized businesses often provide the best products at the lowest costs,” Larsen said. “Because of complex contracting requirements, these businesses often need assistance to compete for government projects.”

“My language in this bill will help more businesses compete for government contracts. It will help companies grow and create jobs, and it will get the best products at the lowest costs to federal, state and local agencies.”

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy Reed, who spearheaded Oak Harbor’s “Jets = Jobs” campaign in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed against the Navy, said the funding is welcome news in light of the economic downturn of the last few years.

“Obviously it’s good news for Oak Harbor in particular and Whidbey Island in general,” Reed said. “We benefit an incredible amount from the presence of the Navy base. After such a depressed economy, we’re already seeing growth.”

“You can’t deny the base is good for business.”

On a broader scale, the bill designates a senior official within the Defense Department to facilitate the transfer of prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay and restores funding to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The bill also includes 30 provisions to reduce sexual assaults in the military which will strip commanders of their ability to dismiss findings of a court marital, prohibit commanders from reducing sentences, and allow victims to apply for permanent changes of station and access to special counsel.


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