The groundbreaking for a new project championed by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) that will protect and enhance critical Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst missions took place today.
Smith, worked for years to advance the project which was included in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was a guest speaker. The new Army aviation facility 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). The CFA is currently in Hangar 5, an aging 1940s-era wooden structure that has significantly deteriorated, threatening to damage aircraft and equipment.
"The safety, the well-being and a suitable workspace for the hardworking women and men devoted to CERDEC required a new venue," Smith told the crowd of military and civilians gathered to watch. "The escalating risk of damage or destruction of aircraft and unique equipment had the potential to undermine the research, testing, reset & re-modification missions carried on daily at the facility, negatively impacting the warfighter."
Smith noted that early on, there were concerns that the price tag of the facility might tempt the Pentagon to pull up stakes in New Jersey and redeploy elsewhere.
"Present day downsizing and huge, potentially dangerous and destructive cuts in military spending have made securing new milcon (military construction) a very daunting task," Smith said. "But here we are, working as a team--I began pushing in 2008--working to make sure this important CERDEC component will stay right here, further ensuring that the warfighter has every advantage, including advanced sensors, to prevail on the battlefield."
For six years, Smith worked with Army officials at multiple levels and was able to secure a crucial commitment for the replacement hangar in the Future Years Defense Plan in 2008.
The hangar project's military value was clear when it was specifically requested by the Army in the 2013 budget, in an account that was slashed by over $1 billion dollars from 2012.
The facility will be comprised of three buildings, and is estimated to cost $42 million to construct, less than the $47 million originally anticipated. It will be large enough to handle multiple helicopters and fixed wing aircraft up to the size of a C-130 four engine prop aircraft. Construction is slated to be complete by early 2016.