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Defense bill funds NAS Whidbey
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is slotted to 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, which was passed by Congress last year and signed by the president in December. The act sets the policies and priorities for the Department of Defense.
NAS Whidbey is expected to receive funding for three construction projects at the base — $32 million for EA-18G facility improvements, $85 million for P8-A facilities and $10 million to replace the fuel pier breakwater.
The Environmental Impact Statement process for both aircraft types is 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 commanding officer, said the funding allotment speaks to the integral role 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.
The bill appropriates a total of $3.2 billion for the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon program and provides full funding, $1.6 billion, for the refueling tanker which is being constructed at Boeing’s Everett-based factory.
“This defense bill meets the needs of our sailors and aviators in Northwest Washington and our troops around the world,” said Second Congressional District 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, said the funding is good news after 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.”