A lobbyist told the Havelock Board of Commissioners that base supporters need to remain vigilant in their defense of Cherry Point, despite indications that a Base Realignment and Closure Commission may not happen as soon as thought.
Pete Rose, a partner of the city-hired Franklin Group lobbying firm, said that while bills before Congress may have anti-BRAC language, military cuts, particularly at Cherry Point, can still happen.
"I think that anyone that thinks that this has been punted or stalled needs to think about it again," Rose told commissioners during a meeting Monday night at Havelock City Hall.
Rose’s comments came in a workshop in which Havelock officials were identifying and prioritizing lobbying activities, expectations and channels of direction.
Commissioners questioned to what degree Cherry Point’s downsized base hospital would be a problem in any BRAC.
"Frankly, it’s the least of you worries," Rose said.
Cherry Point’s military value is what would be most considered, Rose said. Also vital is the broad area of military airspace near Cherry Point.
One of the important facets that makes Cherry Point of such immense value is its training ranges, like the BT-11 and BT-9 bombing ranges in Carteret County that are part of the Mid-Atlantic Electronic Warfare Range, said Jamie Norment, representing the Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow lobby group.
"If you lose the training fields, you lose the air station," Norment told commissioners.
The group considered several key lobbying points, including the placement of a $43.6 million Vertical Lift Fan Facility currently scheduled for fiscal year 2018, the timeline for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons, a proposal to place F/A-18 Growler electronic warfare jets at Cherry Point, a potential basing of more Marine Corps unmanned aircraft here, and use of Cherry Point for basing military surplus as overseas war efforts draw down.
"I think the things that we need to focus on are the things outside the gate that we have some control over," Mayor Jimmy Sanders said.
Those things include zoning near the base, encroachment around the base and implementation of sound attenuation regulations that reduce aircraft noise in new homes and businesses, things on which the city has taken action.
Rose said the city needed to develop a package about Cherry Point’s and Havelock’s assets, and circulate it widely.
"We need to tell our story first," Rose said. "He who tells their story first controls the narrative."
Sonny Roberts, a member of the new N.C. Military Affairs Commission, said his fellow members needed to hear news from Cherry Point on a regular basis.
"Probably the lack of communication is one of the most important things here now," Roberts said. "I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. You need to keep the commission involved. We need a report at every meeting we have on what’s happening at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point."
Sanders said it was the aim of the city to see more coordinated participation in the overall lobbying effort.
"We’ve developed a very good line of communication over the last several months," Rose said of the relationship between himself, Norment, and Marc Finlayson, an ACT consultant.
"It takes everybody and we want you to be part of that group," Sanders told Rose. "It seems that there would be a great benefit in having you work together."
Sanders said Havelock was not going out on its own to lobby for Cherry Point but wanted to coordinate with Craven County’s lobbying group, Cassidy and Associates.
The Havelock Board of Commissioners approved last month payment of an extra $3,800 to the Franklin Group to help with base lobbying efforts.
"We want ACT, the Franklin Group and Cassidy and Associates to all be working together because we’re all working for the same cause," Havelock Commissioner Danny Walsh said.