Rep. LoBiondo Applauds Pentagon Recognition of 177th Fighter Wing's Importance to Homeland Defense
Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-2) applauded today's announcement by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the 177th Fighter Wing will remain an integral part of our nation's homeland defense. The Secretary issued a list of his recommendations for closure and realignment as part of the ongoing Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
"The Secretary's list confirmed what we already knew - that the Jersey Devils' are one of the most strategically placed bases in the country, and they are a vital part of our national security," Rep. LoBiondo said. "While we must continue to work towards ensuring all of New Jersey's superior military facilities are strengthened, it is great news that the work and mission of the 177th have been recognized as essential to our homeland defense."
The BRAC process is designed to help the DOD reorganize bases and shed excess infrastructure. The process seeks to create a more efficient and effective military force, increase operational readiness and facilitate the trend towards more joint military operations among the services. The Secretary of Defense's report begins the process of assessing the nation's military bases and facilities for closure or realignment.
"This is a great day for the men and women of the 177th as the important work they do got the credit it deserves, and their mission will remain intact," said Egg Harbor Township Mayor James J. "Sonny" McCullough. "We have spent over a year spreading the news about the superior work of the Jersey Devils,' and its great to know that the message was heard loud and clear."
Last year, Rep. LoBiondo worked with Mayor McCullough to form a new community group, "Friends of the 177th Fighter Wing," designed to support the fighter wing and promote their mission to military and elected officials. The group is chaired by the Mayor McCullough.
The Secretary's list will now be sent to a BRAC Commission, comprised of nine commissioners who were appointed by President George W. Bush. They will assess the recommendations as part of their overall examination of current base compositions. The Commission will have until September 9, 2005 to make their own recommendations based on the list provided to them. The Commission will then send their final report to Congress and the President, who may accept or reject the report in its entirety, but may not make any changes.
"Wednesday's air defense breach in Washington is a prime example of why 24 hour alert sites like the 177th are essential as we continue to fight the war on terror," Rep. LoBiondo added. "During my time in Congress, and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, supporting the Jersey Devils' has been one of my highest priorities. We can't thank the men and women of the guard unit enough for the critical work that they do protecting our skies, and keeping us safe."
The 177th has been located at its current location at the Atlantic City International Airport since 1958 and has an estimated economic impact of almost $80 million to the surrounding communities. Since October 2000, the Jersey Devils' have participated in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Joint Forge, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and are designated as a 24-hour air defense alert site.
The Wing flies the F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft, which are housed on almost 300 acres near the Atlantic City International Airport and has an estimated economic impact of almost $80 million on the surrounding communities.