Taking aim at Hampton Roads: Base closings on the horizon?

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Base closings could be on the horizon in Hampton Roads. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel brought up the idea during Tuesday’s visit to Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis.

The Department of Defense is not the only group looking to close or realign military resources. The threat to Hampton Roads bases could come from the southern region of the East Coast instead of Washington.

“We’ve asked for BRAC authority the last two budgets that we’ve submitted. We’re going to ask for it again,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

And once again business leaders in Hampton Roads will…

“…Present the strongest possible case for the facilities that are here to not only remain but to possibly receive…organizations and forces from other installations that might close outside of the region,” said Craig Quigley, Dir. HRMFFA.

“BRAC is not only for closing, but it’s also for relocating,” explained Retired Rear Adm. Fred Metz.

In 1991, the Navy closed Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

“When Cecil was closed, the Navy’s position they felt Cherry Point was a great place to put a Master Jet Base and Cecil was supposed to go to Cherry Point,” said Metz.

Instead, the jets came to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. Cherry Point, North Carolina is where the Marine Corps Air Station is located, and some insiders think it could be included on the BRAC list in 2017.

“If you look at Cherry Point right now we have AB-8B, we have EA-6Bs, and both of those are going away,” said Metz.

Metz said it’s conceivable that the Navy could look to Cherry Point to base the next generation fighter jet, the F-35, especially in the wake of the jet crash at Mayfair Mews two years ago and with concerns from some beach residents about jet noise. The F-35 is even louder than the F-18s that fly in and out of Oceana.

“It could become another battle between Oceana and Cherry Point,” said Metz.

The last time base closures impacted Hampton Roads, Naval Air Station Oceana was almost lost due to encroachment issues, Fort Monroe was shut down, and Fort Eustis was realigned.

Click here for full coverage of Defense Secretary Hagel’s visit to Fort Eustis. 

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