Craven County’s actions to support and protect Cherry Point have been noticed at the Pentagon, leaders of the county’s lobbying efforts say.
After two days of Washington meetings last week, Scott Dacey, Craven County Board of Commissioners chairman, and James Norment, a local attorney hired by the county to coordinate lobbying with federal military and civilian leaders, said their meetings with Washington lobbyists Cassidy and Associates and high level Defense Department officials were very productive.
“We have had a federal lobbying effort going on for some time and had been looking for the right time to go to the Pentagon to make sure they understand everything we’re doing from an encroachment standpoint and so forth to protect the base,” Dacey said.
Dacey said talks were held with high-ranking officers about the proposed Base Realignment and Closure process scheduled for 2015 but added that he sensed no one in Congress would go forward with a BRAC.
However, Norment stressed that a BRAC wasn’t necessary for cuts to be made.
“There is always an opportunity for realignment, for downsizing outside of a BRAC,” he said. “And, we were consistent in conveying the message that where there is opportunity. Cherry Point is happy to take on new missions, whether that is additional jets from jets being relocated or new jets from the assembly line, and the community fully supports that.”
He said the same holds true for the Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft repair and maintenance facility at Cherry Point.
Norment said talk of proposed furloughs of civilian workers at the base also came up. He said he hoped furlough days, which had already been cut from 22 to 14, could be further reduced.
Dacey said meetings were set up with representatives of the state’s congressional delegation, and Norment said the group met with high-ranking civilians engaged in readiness at the Pentagon.
“Everyone pointed out that Cherry Point and its training ranges cannot be duplicated anywhere in the country and they think that maintaining them is very important,” Norment said.
He said the officials were also pleased with the county’s recently approved regulations on tall structures. The rules are designed to prevent tall structures, such as windmills, from impacting military training and air traffic.
Norment and Dacey said the meetings included a particularly informative session with Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., deputy commandant for Navy aviation, which made them feel Cherry Point is considered an asset to grow with new construction dollars already in the pipeline for Joint Strike Fighter facilities.
“The meeting with Gen. Schmidle was exceptional in that it gave me as a county commissioner a great deal of confidence that the military is continuing to fulfill a commitment to that base,” Dacey said. “He shared long-term plans for construction to bring that facility to the next stage of being able to support the Joint Strike Fighter. He showed us plans and paperwork that gives me a great deal of confidence that the Defense Department is committed to the longevity of that base.”