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 Grove. "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: http://www.governor.state.pa.us. 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 others. 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 underway. 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 responders. -- 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