National Defense Authorization Act includes $23.3 million for projects

Congress has approved funding for security improvements at Cherry Point, clearing the way for future basing of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter at the air station.

The $23.3 million project was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 after a committee reconciled differences between House and Senate versions of the bill before it was sent to President Obama for his signature.

“This is tremendous news as it signals yet another strong commitment by Congress to helping ensure Cherry Point will remain as the premier base for F-35B fifth generation stealth Marine Corps aircraft on the East Coast,” said Marc Finlayson, managing consultant for the Allies for Cherry Point lobby group.

The added security was required before Cherry Point could house any F-35B squadrons, the first of which is expected in 2022.

“This represents a significant step forward for Cherry Point and is further testament that a unified voice between the city, ACT and our regional partners can have a positive impact for our national security, the air station, and the region,” Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said.

Lewis went on to credit the state’s congressional delegation for ensuring that the funding for the projects would be included in the bill.

According to the Navy, the project includes a security fence, pavement of patrol roads and creation of new patrol roads. Similar security improvements had been made at Beaufort, S.C., where squadrons of F-35Bs are located.