A project supporting a critical mission at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL) that Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) has been working on since 2008 is included in the Army’s fiscal year 2013 budget released today. The Army’s proposed budget includes $47 million for a new state-of-the-art aviation hangar to house the Communications and Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Flight Activity (CFA) on the former Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station side of the joint base.
The hangar replacement is a long-term project championed by Smith to ensure safety at the facility, protect current work and missions, and develop a state-of-the-art hub to attract new work and critical missions in the years ahead.
“Four years ago, we began laying the ground work, meeting with officials from the installation and throughout the Army chain of command to highlight the hangar’s condition and propose a long term solution," said Smith, who back in 1995 formed Save Navy Lakehurst to remove the base from the BRAC list and has continued to work to enhance the value of the base by bringing new assets to the installation. "We started with Gen. Fred D. Robinson, Jr., then-Commander of CFA’s parent command, who concurred that theCFA mission at Lakehurst is an ‘essential capability’.”
Smith said that since the Department of Defense (DOD) did not propose moving the Lakehurst section of the mission to Aberdeen, Md. with its headquarters (CECOM)—then at Fort Monmouth—during the last BRAC round in 2005, he was determined to work with the Army to make sure that the mission had an appropriate home at Lakehurst and would not be uprooted in any future BRACs.
“I then met with and spoke to Army and DOD officials—even taking our case to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—to bring awareness of the critical missions performed in the hangar and the need for them to include a replacement in their budget,” Smith said. “Today’s budget reflects a long-term commitment by the Army to continuing CFA’s mission support at Lakehurst.”
The new hangar will replace Hangar 5, on the Lakehurst side of JB-MDL. Hangar 5 is a 1940s-era wooden structure that has experienced ongoing structural deterioration. The CFA has used innovative and effective approaches to prevent damage to the aircraft and safeguard their workforce, but a long-term solution is necessary.
The Army budget process includes a requirement that they delineate military construction plans for future years, essentially laying out what they believe they need to build on military installations for the next five years in the future years defense plan (FYDP). In 2008 at Smith’s request, the Army included this project in the 2010-2015 FYDP, and scheduled for funding in fiscal year 2013.
“Looking at DOD’s budgetary situation and the funding reductions they are facing, this project’s inclusion in the Army’s request this morning is a testament to CFA’s record of providing cost-effective support to the warfighter with established capabilities and intellectual capital that cannot be replicated elsewhere,” Smith said. “It will remain a critical aspect of our installation, and a place to attract more work and more missions for many years.”
Knowing that the budget cuts the Pentagon is implementing meant there was a possibility that the new hangar could be delayed, Smith spoke with Army Secretary John McHugh on a few occasions in recent months to urge him to retain this project in FY2013.
“The CFA and its partners in Hangar 5 are a dedicated team of professionals who facilitate critical mission support for ongoing contingency operations,” Smith said. "Keeping them here in a safe environment means keeping good jobs and hopefully growing the activity. They employ over a hundred New Jersey residents, conduct hundreds of millions in annual business and support local small business firms.Additionally, there are also near-term local economic benefits of a construction project of this magnitude.
“CFA has grown rapidly in the past few years,” Smith said. “They are now bringing in more work than ever before and continue to be a vital tenet at the base and for the community. 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 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 funding will go to construct 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. Building new classrooms and barracks will allow soldiers to train in modern facilities that meet their specific needs, and enhance the overall readiness of the Army Guard in the state and region, he said.
The President’s budget request is a critical first step in the funding process. Both the House and Senate will now begin work on the Pentagon’s authorization and appropriations bills, in which the hangar must be included to be signed into law for fiscal year 2013.