Escambia County

Gaetz: OLF-8 deal ‘BRAC-proofs’ NAS Whiting Field

July 10, 2017

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.

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  • D Huffman July 10, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    The Congressman has his priorities wrong and too many egg in one basket. Sure, Elgin will not be eliminated by a BRAC and NASP is safe due to its historical significance, but a BRAC decision can still reduce/shift/remove personnel and assets. I am a retired Marine and value the areas mlitary bases, but it is nieve for a 1st term Congressman to think he has the influence to tell the Pentagon how to use its assets or people. The Congressman needs to work with the citizens in regards to the lack of good paying jobs. The wages in the area are a close cousin to slave labor wages in the 21st century. Oh….rent continues to go up as well.

  • CJ Lewis July 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    During a recent board meeting, Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson said that the OLF-8 deal was a great deal for Santa Rosa County. How much money does Santa Rosa County have tied-up in the deal?

    Has anyone calculated the Navy’s annual cost savings? Will the rotary-wing flight syllabus be shortened?

    The BRAC process is more like chess than checkers. The military departments are constantly thinking about it if just in the backdrop of everything they do to include during the Quadrennial Defense Review process.

    Nothing is “BRAC-proof.” Some non-BRAC decisions might affect Whiting Field. For example, If the Department of Defense were to direct the Navy and Air Force to adopt the Army’s model for training rotary-wing aviators, ending the need for future helicopter pilots to fly the T-6, there would be an impact upon operations at Whiting Field. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force helicopter pilots would earn their wings faster and at significantly less cost. As another example, if the Navy and Air Force ever had a common joint fixed-wing jet trainer, either the T-45 or something else, that might set the stage for joint fixed-wing training squadrons and bases with a potential impact upon Whiting Field.