Earlier today the House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA/ HR 4310) and advanced a $47 million project championed by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) that will protect and enhance critical Joint Base missions.
The NDAA contains funding for a new state-of-the-art Army aviation facility that will house the Communications and Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Flight Activity (CFA) on the former Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station side of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL). CFA will relocate to the new facility from Hangar 5, a 1940s-era wooden structure that has experienced ongoing structural deterioration.
"The CERDEC Flight Activity missions on Lakehurst have grown rapidly in the past few years. They are now bringing in more work than ever before and continue to be a vital tenet at the base and for the community," Smith said. After working with military officials throughout the Army's chain of command, Smith was able to secure a commitment for a replacement hangar in the Future Years Defense Plan in 2008. "CERDEC is a prime example of a mission that has grown and can continue to grow as a result of a coordinated and concerted effort to highlight the talented workforce and other assets that we have at the Joint Base."
The hangar project demonstrated its military value when it was requested by the Army in this year's budget submission--an account that was cut by more than $1 billion dollars under the FY12 level. "After tough scrutiny from the Army, and now the House Committees with jurisdiction," Smith said referencing both the NDAA and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act that passed a key subcommittee this week, "the CFA hangar made the cut. It clearly demonstrated its military value. This project is a win-win for the Army and our local community. The Army will retain this critical mission and the expertise of the highly skilled workforce, while the workforce will see an increase in safety and employment security. The modern hangar will also bring employment for the construction industry in the short term."
The hangar continues Smith's efforts to protect the Joint Base, keep its current missions in central New Jersey and provide an attractive environment for future growth.
"While the NDAA rejects the administration's misguided request for another BRAC round we must continue to vigilantly protect the Joint Base, its tenants like the CFA, and prepare against future reductions," Smith said, referring to the Base realignment and Closure Commission--the Pentagon's process close bases and shift military missions to other installations,
Smith, who back in 1995 formed Save Navy Lakehurst to remove the base from the BRAC list, has since spearheaded numerous projects that reduce the likelihood it will be a target in a future round.
"Working with base and local officials we began a process of minimizing weaknesses and exploiting strengths on the three installations that now make up the Joint Base, the military's only tri-service joint installation," Smith said. "We reduced excess capacity through projects like the Super Lab and brought in new facilities for existing critical naval aviation missions, like the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advance Arresting Gear (AAG) which are both critical to our future aircraft carriers. We've recruited new tenants like the FBI and the National Guard and won important projects that save the military money and well position the base against future BRACs or DOD realignments."
The DOD budget also includes $34 million for a Regional Training Institute (RTI) on the National Guard Training Facility Center in Sea Girt in Monmouth County. The project includes construction of a complex that upgrades and consolidates training facilities on the installation where Guard soldiers throughout the region will receive sustainment and leadership training in their Military Occupation Specialties (MOS). Smith said the New Jersey National Guard has been working on this project for almost a decade and will finally see its hard work pay off. New classrooms and barracks will allow soldiers to train in modern facilities that meet their specific needs, and improve overall readiness of the Army Guard in the state and region, he said.
The NDAA, which is enacted annually to provide authority and funding for the Pentagon, was passed by a 299-120 vote. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.