Editorial: Closing Whidbey would be stupid

The editor of this newspaper takes a public pledge to eat this opinion page if Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is included on the base closure list expected to be released by the Pentagon in the next few days.

Local politicians and business leaders are making all the right moves in going through the motions to prove that we need and love our Navy base. Trips are made to Washington, D.C., to genuflect before the powers that be, press releases noting the significance of the base’s payroll are e-mailed to the world and closed meetings are held in which our local bigwigs try to discern the base closure tea leaves.

But let’s get real. It would be stupid to close NAS Whidbey.

The Whidbey base is ideally located for training young pilots in every imaginable flying condition — from hot, flat deserts east of the mountains to snowy Cascade peaks to fog-shrouded Puget Sound and the rainy, windy coastal forests. The airspace is relatively wide open, and the base is the closest in the continental U.S. to future Asian hotspots, such as North Korea.

Many millions of dollars have been poured into updating NAS Whidbey’s facilities in recent years, and it’s ready to accommodate the successors to the P-3 Orion patrol planes and the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes.

In short, NAS Whidbey is one of the U.S. Navy’s most valuable assets and its chances of being closed are minuscule.

Of course, the Pentagon has been known to do stupid things in the past. So we’ll keep a saltshaker close by, just in case. Newsprint tastes a little bland without it.

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