With the military being more than half of his district’s economy, Congressman Matt Gaetz worked with the Department of Defense to shave off nearly $2 millions of the cost of the land transfer involving OLF-8 in the Beulah. In June, the Escambia Board of County Commission voted to proceed with the swap.
“We saved between $1.5 and $2 million for taxpayers in Escambia County,” he told Inweekly. “Also, there was a unanimous vote for the County Commission to proceed on this swap that will be very important for the military mission at Whiting Field because we’ve seen so much growth in the northern parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties and places where there can be a night training mission are more limited than they were a decade ago.”
According to Gaetz, the enhancement of night training has made the land deal vital to the mission of NAS Whiting Field and will protect the base in the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
“With Whiting being 35 percent of Santa Rosa County’s economy, it’s critically important that we BRAC-proof that mission,” said Gaetz. He added that enhancements to the test range in Okaloosa County has “BRAC-proofed” Eglin AFB as the addition of two Coast Guard cutters helped protect to future viability of NAS Pensacola.
“Across the district, we’re trying to take steps now to enhance investment in our assets to BRAC-proof us for the long term,” said Gaetz.
By meeting a key need of the Navy, Escambia County has improved the area’s chances of surviving a BRAC process, especially when other places may not have community support and an integrated effort on the part of the local and federal governments, according to Gaetz.
He called the OLF-8 land sway a “a real testament” of the Escambia County Commission’s commitment to the military’s mission.