Capt. Geoffrey Moore, base commanding officer, presents a “State of the Station” update Thursday to the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce at the Elk’s Lodge. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Capt. Geoffrey Moore, base commanding officer, presents a “State of the Station” update Thursday to the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce at the Elk’s Lodge. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Commander talks about the future of Navy base

Population stabilized; facility for unmanned drone in the works

Capt. Geoffrey Moore, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island commanding officer, delivered his final “State of the Station” to the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Thursday in Oak Harbor.

He thanked the community for its support of the base, named best large installation by Navy Installations Command in December, and outlined its past and planned efforts for “sustaining success.”

Acknowledging recent discussions about housing availability in Oak Harbor, he addressed population projections at the base.

“I’m proud to say, for the most part, we’ve stabilized,” Moore told the audience.

There are 600 people expected to transfer to the island over the next four to five years for electronic attack operations, but this number will be offset by the decommissioning of another squadron, he said.

There are 10,500 people associated with the base; The total population comprises 8,400 military personnel and 2,100 civilians/ full-time contractors.

The local population also includes over 4,000 veterans and around 6,200 veteran family members.

There are currently more than 8,900 military dependents associated with NAS Whidbey, Moore said.

He cited a 2017 Island County Economic Development Council study that said the base is four times the size of the next largest employer in Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

Annually, the installation generates around $630 million in total payroll, and local veterans receive around $77 million in veterans payment.

Moore addressed the upcoming Environmental Impact Study, which he said is expected to be completed in September.

“We have to go out and make sure that it’s compatible with the community and the environment when we bring in (additional aircraft),” he said.

The draft plan proposes adding 36 additional EA-18 Growler aircraft through the end of 2024, he said.

The final decision about the number of Growlers and distribution of operations between Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville will come after the completed EIS has been examined, he said.

In addition to aircraft changes, he discussed a number of construction projects planned for over the next two years. On the year of its 75th anniversary, Hangar 1 — the first one built on NAS Whidbey — will be demolished.

Moore said it isn’t cost effective to renovate the building, so a new one will be built in its place.

The base will soon include a mission control facility for the unmanned MQ-4C Triton, though the aircraft won’t be located on the island.

“We’ll be able to fly them from here,” he said. “We’ll be flying those aircraft around the world.

“An exciting project, this is the future of aviation.”

Construction of a facility is also planned to support P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which the base is in the process of transitioning to from the P-3 Orion.

The captain will not see many of these projects come to fruition, as he will soon leave to pursue a different position with the Navy in Washington, D.C.

Moore will be succeeded by Capt. Matthew Arny during a change of command on Aug. 17.

“I think he’ll make you easily forget all about me,” he said jokingly. “It’s time for me to say goodbye.”

”It’s been incredible,” Moore said.

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