Will BRAC Happen? Oceana Concern

02 May 2013 | 8:09 AM

Will BRAC Happen? Oceana Concern; The DOD FY 2014 budget requested a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) to start in 2015. BRAC was one of the uncertainties of the budget proposal, the non inclusion of the sequester cut, if not added (50 Billion) could be the largest driver of the way forward to the future of the Military. Even without sequester DOD is forced to restructure to a smaller force (imposed 487 Billion reduction) which should also require a reduction in the present infrastructure. In addition to budget cuts, there are the strategic challenges as the DOD pivots to Asia/Pacific. The pivot will require an evaluation of the infrastructure needed to support the shift.

In hearings DOD officials have stated; “we need to find a way to strike the right balance so infrastructure does not drain too many resources from the warfighter— we need to be cognizant that maintaining more infrastructure then we need takes other resources that the warfighter needs— from depot maintenance to training to bullets and bombs.” The Navy and Marines have testified that during previous BRAC’s they have been successful in realignment and reducing a lot of excess infrastructure. The Army and Air Force have stated BRAC is necessary. Congress, who has the final say on BRAC, has expressed concern about the negative effect of closures in their districts. Closures that would have a major impact on local economies and job losses. (Some districts have been on the DOD recommended list to close and have not been approved by the commission and are now concerned they will be on future lists, i.e., Naval shipyard at Kittery NH and Sub Base at New London CT—on DOD 2005 list) Only time will tell if Congress approves another round of BRAC.

When BRAC is mentioned local leaders express concern about the future of Oceana. A little history; DOD/Navy have NEVER put Oceana on the BRAC list.— In 1993 DOD recommended closing of NAS Cecil and moving the Cecil F-18 squadrons to Cherry Point (The 93 BRAC moved all the F-14’s from Miramar to Oceana, Miramar became a MCAS). The locals in Jacksonville fought the closure action and recommended to the BRAC commission that Oceana be closed. Oceana was put on the list by the commission. A group led by Congressmen Pickett, Mayor Oberndorf (VB) and the Chamber aggressively fought the Cecil proposal. In addition to fighting and winning the Jacksonville recommendation, the Pickett group convinced the commission to base the Cecil aircraft at Oceana vice Cherry Point. (The group realized the F-14 would be going away by 2006, which would leave no A/C at Oceana, without the F-18). BRAC moved 2 F-18 squadrons to MCAS Beaufort SC (no longer there) all the rest of the Cecil squadrons moved to Oceana. Cecil closed in 1999. The next Oceana concern was the Navy’s decision where to base the F-18 Super Hornet on the east coast. (2003) The Navy evaluated Cherry Point and Oceana to base the aircraft. The Pickett group was very involved in presenting the rationale for basing the Super Hornet at Oceana. (Not without some local opposition, Citizens Concerned about Jet Noise, and a group opposed the requirement of an additional Out Lying Field (OLF) in their areas) The Navy Super Hornet decision was to base the training squadron and 8 fleet squadrons at Oceana and 2 squadrons at Cherry Point (this did not happen). The OLF decision is on hold (the Navy should review this requirement); All Navy East coast F-18 squadrons (C,D,E,F) are at Oceana.

BRAC 2005; NAS Oceana was Not on the DOD/Navy BRAC list. (No surprise, after choosing Oceana to base Super Hornets there in 2003) An aggressive group in Jacksonville presented a plan to the BRAC Commission to re-open Cecil and close and move all Oceana aircraft to Jacksonville/Cecil. They presented a very through plan (presented by retired Navy personnel) concerning Cecil capabilities and stressed encroachment at Oceana and Fentress. Locals were caught off guard and the Jacksonville group prevailed and the Commission recommended closing Oceana (by 2011) and re-opening Cecil. The move was pending citizen approval. Jacksonville did not approve the referendum, VB took positive encroachment actions required and Oceana was saved. Should there be concern about the future of Oceana and BRAC? Oceana does have issues that cause concern, mentioned in a Pilot editorial on 21 April. Encroachment, Traffic, possible offshore drilling, and possible wind farms. But there are many more positives; Family living/schools, operating areas, training facilities, close to CVNs and already established outstanding facilities. The unknowns; where is the east coast F-35C going to be based? Will DOD recommend closure of a Marine/Air Force facility that could support Oceana jets? i.e., Cherry Point, Seymour Johnson AFB or Moody AFB. I do not envision Oceana being on a DOD BRAC list, but if any of the mentioned bases are, stand by for those localities to have Oceana added. VB has been through the BRAC drill before, now is the time for LOCAL leaders (Rigell, Mayor and Chamber) to be ready for the possible BRAC.

There is a lot of opposition to BRAC in congress, but VB cannot take the chance of another BRAC 2005.


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