Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Confirms Plans for Military, Governmental Use of Willow Grove

May 18, 2007, 01:00 ET from Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

    HARRISBURG, Pa., May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G.
 Rendell today announced he will continue working to maintain Willow Grove
 as a critical base for military and government flying operations.
     The Governor re-confirmed his commitment during a meeting between
 Pennsylvania Adjutant General Major General Jessica L. Wright, senior
 members of Governor Rendell's staff and the members and staff of the
 Horsham Local Redevelopment Authority and Horsham Township.
     "Unfortunately, people have misunderstood our plans to save the base.
 We are not supporting a civilian or commercial airport," Governor Rendell
 said. "We envision Willow Grove as a critical component of our overall
 homeland security plans. We have the opportunity to make Willow Grove a
 model for the future of Homeland Security."
     The meeting included a briefing on the joint interagency base plan and
 a wide-ranging discussion of various perspectives on the future of Willow
     "When the Air Force last month announced that they supported the joint
 interagency base plan and wanted to partner with the commonwealth to make
 it a reality, it meant that a key Department of Defense component
 recognized the vital nature of this installation," General Wright said.
 "The outpouring of support for designating this base for use by the
 Pennsylvania National Guard, other DoD components, associated users and
 government agencies for national defense, homeland security and emergency
 preparedness has been truly outstanding."
     "We asked for the Horsham Local Redevelopment Authority's help in
 correcting misinformation about the joint interagency base plan," said Art
 Stephens, deputy chief of staff for Governor Rendell. "The interagency base
 plan does not involve creation of a civilian airport at Willow Grove. We
 made it clear once again that commercial passenger and cargo operations
 will not be permitted there. Under this plan, Willow Grove will remain a
 government installation focusing on providing vital emergency response
 capabilities from its key strategic location.
     "Support for flying operations by maintaining the runway, clear zones
 and associated flight support facilities is an essential element for making
 sure that interagency base operations can accomplish their national
 security objectives," Stephens said.
     "We see today's meeting with the Horsham Local Redevelopment Authority
 and Horsham Township as part of a continuing effort to involve local
 interests in the development and implementation of the joint interagency
 base plan," said General Wright.
     The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public
 education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing
 economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out
 more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly
 newsletter, visit his Web site at:
     EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is a summary of Pennsylvania's plan for a joint
 interagency base at Willow Grove.
                  Pennsylvania's Plan for A Joint Interagency
                              Base at Willow Grove
     Goal: The goal of this plan is to maintain the core military
 capabilities of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NASJRB) Willow Grove
 by designating it for operation as a joint interagency base for use by the
 Pennsylvania National Guard and other Department of Defense components,
 government agencies, and associated users to perform national defense,
 homeland security, and emergency preparedness missions.
     Joint Interagency Base Plan: The plan for a joint interagency base at
 Willow Grove builds on the BRAC Commission decision requiring a military
 enclave for the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve,
 sufficient to support flying operations at Willow Grove. The joint
 interagency base plan represents the very best use of Willow Grove by
 preserving its essential character as a military installation and providing
 crucial capabilities for homeland security, defense and emergency
 preparedness missions. This approach is similar to the successful Fort
 Indiantown Gap model.
     Willow Grove's Infrastructure: Located in proximity to Philadelphia,
 the National Capital Region and the mid-Atlantic / Northeast Corridor,
 Willow Grove occupies a key strategic location to provide for response
 capabilities for national, regional and state contingencies and
 emergencies. The existing infrastructure at Willow Grove, including its
 recently refurbished 8,000 runway, state-of-the-art digital radar, flight
 support facilities, hangars, office space, utility infrastructure, power
 supply and storage facilities make it indispensable for responding to a
 variety of contingencies. Willow Grove's capacity to make a difference in
 response to national and state emergencies was clearly shown in the
 response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast and the
 devastating Pennsylvania floods in 2006. With its military-level security
 and its ability to be self-sustaining in various scenarios, Willow Grove
 has been, and will continue to be, the "go to" base in emergency and
 threatened emergency situations.
     Flying Operations: Continued support for military and government flying
 operations at Willow Grove is a key element of the joint interagency base
 plan. It is the Commonwealth's intent that the Pennsylvania Air National
 Guard will continue to fly out of Willow Grove. Not only is the existence
 of an active operational airfield a major incentive for military and other
 government users of the installation, the airfield allows the 111th Fighter
 Wing to continue to perform its core function as a military flying
 organization. The joint interagency base plan does not include
 establishment of a civilian airport at Willow Grove. The Willow Grove
 airfield will exist to support military and government flying operations,
 and no regularly- scheduled commercial passenger or commercial cargo
 operations will be permitted at this airfield. It is expected that,
 compared to the past, there will be fewer flying operations into and out of
 Willow Grove under the interagency base plan.
     Expected Users of the Willow Grove Joint Interagency Base: The 111th
 Fighter Wing and U.S. Army Reserve are already slated to remain at Willow
 Grove as directed by BRAC law. The base is expected to grow with the
 addition of Army National Guard units. The Pennsylvania Army Guard's 56th
 Stryker Brigade HQ will initially add an additional 500 Army National Guard
 soldiers to the total force at Willow Grove. The increase of the overall
 National Guard force at the Willow Grove joint interagency base will
 provide the Governor of Pennsylvania more manpower and capabilities to
 contend with national or state emergencies. Under such provisions, Willow
 Grove could provide approximately 4,000 military personnel from the Army
 and Air National Guard, along with Army Reserves.
     In addition, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is actively pursuing
 other interagency options that will effectively transform Willow Grove into
 an interagency homeland security and readiness center, with Army Reserve
 and Army/Air National Guard units as its primary tenants. Willow Grove will
 function as an important command center for PEMA and FEMA and will provide
 Continuity of Operations sites for numerous government agencies. Willow
 Grove is uniquely positioned to provide mobilization and staging, medical
 support, and other related functions.
     Already, the Commonwealth has received a significant number of
 expressions of interest from the following agencies interested in basing
 operations at Willow Grove:
     -- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
     -- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
     -- Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA)
     -- Civil Air Patrol (CAP)
     -- US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
     -- Defense Contract Management Agency's Industrial Analysis
        Center (DCMA-IAC)
     -- Pennsylvania Southeastern Regional Counter terrorism Task
        Force (PA SERCTTF)
     -- Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)
     -- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
     -- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
     -- DOD Defense Criminal Investigative Service
     -- Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (DoD-IG)
     -- Department of Labor (DOL)
     -- Health and Human Services (HHS)
     -- U.S. Department of Justice
     The joint interagency base plan is consistent with the recently issued
 National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directives setting
 forth the National Continuity Policy. The base will extend the existing
 defense operations to add homeland security and emergency response elements
 as dictated by the National Response Plan to include:
     -- Establishing Willow Grove JIB as an equipment storage location to meet
        the needs of the Emergency Support Functions (ESF's) as it relates to
        the National Response Plan (NRP).
     -- Establishing a Civil Support Team and a Chemical, Biological,
        Radiological, Nuclear Or High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force
        Package (CERFP).
     -- The interagency base plan also envisions use of Willow Grove as a
        convenient, accessible conference/training center for military and
        other government users focusing on homeland security and emergency
        preparedness programs for first responders, combat support elements and
     The joint interagency base plan is designed to accommodate possible
 non- government users of the installation provided their functions are
 compatible with, and ancillary to, the base's primary military and
 government missions. Such users may include medical facilities (government
 and non-government), military/government aircraft maintenance and repair,
 and related business uses.
     Fiscal Considerations: The Commonwealth is confident that it can
 oversee operations of the joint interagency base at Willow Grove in a
 fiscally responsible and cost-effective manner. The overall base operating
 support costs for the proposed joint interagency base at Willow Grove are
 estimated to be in the range of $12 to $18 million per year. The
 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is willing to assume oversight responsibility
 for these costs as part of the federal/state partnership. It is expected
 that all or nearly all of these costs will be borne by the DoD components,
 government agencies and non-governmental organizations that sublease or
 license use of facilities at Willow Grove. The fiscal soundness of the plan
 is based on payments by tenants for use of land and facilities. This plan
 does not depend on airport or runway or ramp user fees for transient
 civilian air operations of any kind.
     Environmental Considerations: The joint interagency base plan will not
 result in a major change of use of the installation. It will continue to
 operate as a government installation for use by DoD components and other
 government agencies. In 1995, Willow Grove was placed on the National
 Priority List (NPL) of locations that warrant further investigation for
 hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. The Navy has prepared an
 environmental condition of property report for Willow Grove that lists 10
 installation restoration program (IRP) sites, for which remediation is
     The Willow Grove Joint Interagency Base Will:
     -- Provide essential capabilities to perform homeland security, national
        defense and emergency preparedness missions.
     -- Maintain the 8,000 foot runway, clear zones and associated flight-
        support facilities at Willow Grove so that military and other
        government flying operations can continue at the site.
     -- Build on the success of the installation and its units and personnel in
        responding to past emergencies and contingencies by providing a secure,
        self-sustaining installation in a key strategic location.
     -- Support the local economy by keeping a robust military and government
        presence at Willow Grove for the foreseeable future.
     -- Be a model homeland security hub and conference and training center
        leveraging its jointness to save costs, improve efficiency and provide
        for effective mission accomplishment.
     -- Be home to the 111th Fighter Wing, the 56th Stryker Brigade
        Headquarters, several Army Reserve units and numerous government
        agencies providing an important measure of local and regional security
     -- Reuse existing government facilities for important governmental
        functions and activities thereby saving taxpayer money and promoting
        the vital purposes of the installation.
     The Willow Grove Joint Interagency Base Will NOT:
     -- Permit regularly-scheduled commercial passenger or commercial cargo
        flying operations.
     -- Be converted into a civilian airport.
     -- Abandon the core military capabilities of the Willow Grove
        installation, including the runway.
     -- Result in increased flying operations or vehicular traffic congestion.
     -- Be allowed to languish for years or fall into disrepair.
     The Way Ahead: Since the Willow Grove Joint Interagency Base maintains
 the installation for use by DoD components and other government agencies, a
 military transfer of the property is a proper mechanism to accomplish this
 goal. The Congress is considering legislation to direct this military
 transfer. Local interests will continue to have significant input into this
 process within the context of maintaining the core operational capabilities
 of the base. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is willing to partner with
 the federal government and local interests to ensure that the core
 operational capabilities are maintained to support homeland security,
 national defense, and emergency preparedness missions. The joint
 interagency base plan is the right approach for our nation, our state and
 the region.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor