Governor Rendell Takes Next Step to Save Willow Grove

Advises Navy of Footprint

HARRISBURG, Pa. , April 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today advised Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter that he believes the bulk of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove should be designated as the Willow Grove /Horsham Joint Interagency Installation.

The suggested installation footprint includes all property and facilities within the fence line of NASJRB Willow Grove together with "air installation compatible use zones" and other Navy property outside the fence line that is needed to support the installation and its airfield.

"We have been fighting to save the base for three years," Governor Rendell said. "Our collective work has made the joint interagency installation possible. Supportive citizens, local leaders, and elected officials -- from the township all the way up to President Bush -- have made it possible for the Willow Grove installation of the future to continue to ably serve our nation, state and communities, just as the Naval Air Station has for more than 60 years.

"I am confident that our collective concern for saving the base and protecting the community will triumph over attempts to exploit the issue for pure political partisan gain," the Governor said.

"By designating all of the available Navy property at Willow Grove's main base as part of the joint interagency installation, we save the base as an important government installation," Governor Rendell said. "The joint interagency installation is a great approach for supporting homeland security, national defense and emergency preparedness missions from a key strategic location. By keeping the airfield as part of the joint base, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 111th Fighter Wing will be able to attract future flying missions.

"The core values of the new installation will guide us as this process moves forward. They are:

1. The installation's missions are homeland security, national defense and emergency preparedness.

2. Strict limitations on airport usage. The Willow Grove airfield will not be converted into an airport for regularly scheduled commercial cargo or passenger operations.

3. Protect the taxpayers of Horsham Township and Montgomery County . The military units, federal agencies, state agencies and related users of the installation will fund installation operations.

4. Willow Grove /Horsham Joint Interagency Installation will remain a vital part of the community, state and nation, just as the Naval Air Station has for many years.

5. Preserve local input and control. The state will continue to work with all levels of government to address the issues identified by local governments and residents as the process moves forward."

Governor Rendell also announced that the desired footprint of the future joint interagency installation does not include off-base Navy housing areas, including the Shenandoah Woods and Jacksonville Road areas.

"My decision on the suggested footprint was guided by a concern for preserving the installation and supporting the installation's mission," the Governor said. "I was very mindful of the issues raised by Horsham Township and some local residents, and I agree that many details will need to be worked out as this process moves forward.

"One thing is very clear: the only way, at this time, to save the base as a government installation is to move forward with the joint interagency installation. Abandoning this installation means that its tremendous capabilities would be lost forever," the Governor said.

In May 2005 , the Department of Defense recommended closure of the Willow Grove base and deactivation of the 111th Fighter Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. After Governor Rendell mounted a court fight and urged the BRAC Commission to reverse the DoD recommendation, the decision was revised to close or realign the Navy portion of the installation while the Air National Guard and other reserve component units would remain.

The community and the state joined in an effort to "save the base" at Willow Grove . That effort succeeded when Congress enacted legislation last May to provide for the Navy to transfer its property at Willow Grove to the Air Force to establish a joint interagency installation for use by the Pennsylvania National Guard, other Department of Defense components, government entities, and associated users to support national defense, homeland security and emergency preparedness missions. As a result of this legislation, the commonwealth agreed in principle to partner with the Air Force to make the joint installation a reality.

A copy of Governor Rendell's letter to Secretary Winter is available at www.state.pa.us. A copy of the installation feasibility study prepared by L. Robert Kimball and Associates for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs may be obtained at www.dmva.state.pa.us.

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit www.governor.state.pa.us.

CONTACT:

Chuck Ardo

717-783-1116

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor



Loading