Dear Secretary Mabus:
On January 28, 2011, the U.S. Navy announced that it would not initiate the NEPA process for east coast basing of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) until at least 2014, and subsequently is suspending release of and stopping all work on the Outlying Landing Field (OLF) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The release of the DEIS has been delayed since August 2009. In light of the uncertainty surrounding the east coast basing of the JSF and the operational necessity of the OLF, on behalf of our constituents we strongly request that you terminate the OLF DEIS immediately.
On April 9, 2008, the Navy published a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register announcing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess environmental consequences of a new Outlying Landing Field (OLF) to support training and operations of East Coast Navy carrier aircraft. There are five site alternatives, including two in North Carolina: Sandbanks site in Gates County (First Congressional District) and Hales Lake site in Camden County (Third Congressional District). These communities have expressed strong opposition to the OLF at these sites due to potentially adverse environmental, economic, and quality-of-life impacts. We have supported these communities in their opposition throughout the NEPA process.
The NOI stated that an OLF was needed “to support the FCLP operations of carrier-
based fixed-wing aircraft squadrons stationed at and transient to NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia (F/A–18C Hornet and F/A–18E/F Super Hornet squadrons and Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS)), and NS Norfolk Chambers Field, Norfolk, Virginia (E–2C Hawkeye, C–2A Greyhound, and E–2C/C–2A FRS).” However, the latest announcement ties the operational necessity of the OLF to the basing of the JSF. The Navy’s originally stated operational need is no longer preeminent in the evaluation of the OLF, and is secondary to the JSF basing. Due to this change, the Navy should terminate the OLF DEIS.
Further, the Navy should not continue to subject affected communities to a drawn-out period of uncertainty. The DEIS was to be released in August 2009, but has been delayed while the Navy evaluates its East Coast Basing for the JSF. Until the most recent announcement, the Navy has not specified how long this delay would last. Our constituents in northeastern North Carolina are in a state of limbo due to this delay, and it is patently unfair to subject them to at least three more years of uncertainty. Such ambiguity has enormous effects on the economic development, social and emotional well-being of these individuals. Out of respect for these communities, the Navy should terminate the OLF DEIS.
In addition, the dire financial problems facing this country and the projected $1.5 trillion budget deficit requires that we limit spending only to items critical for the national security of this country. Given the delay of this project, it would appear the OLF is not a critical need.
North Carolina has a long and proud history of working closely with the military and we are committed to continuing that important tradition. We thank you for your consideration of this important request, and eagerly await your response.
From Kay Hagan:
“I am thrilled that the Navy is suspending and stopping work on the Outlying Landing Field Draft Environmental Impact Statement. We do not want an OLF in Northeastern North Carolina. The people I meet with are absolutely outraged at the prospect of an OLF in their backyards, and I have been working to prevent it. The Navy should thoroughly evaluate all existing OLFs and military airfields before even considering a new one, and this is exactly what Senator Burr and I required the Navy to do in our amendment to last year’s defense authorization bill. I will continue to make the case in Congress that the Navy must not build an OLF in Northeastern North Carolina.”