The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

December 19, 2013

Enid Woodring Regional Airport runway expansion still vital to military mission

ENID, Okla. — The defense spending bill that cleared the Senate this week does not authorize a Base Realignment and Closure round for the next year or so.

That means those of us who live in cities that are home to military facilities can breathe a little easier, right?

Not necessarily, says Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission.

In late November, Fred Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the military needs another BRAC to eliminate excess infrastructure.

Even without a BRAC, the Pentagon has the ability to cut, trim and move missions around as it sees fit.

In fact last month, the Association of Defense Communities, an organization of which Cooper will become president in 2014, held a meeting to formulate strategies for BRAC alternatives. Developing strong public and private partnerships was near the top of the list.

Which makes the recent groundbreaking for the runway expansion project at Enid Woodring Regional Airport so vital, Cooper said.

As it decides what to do with excess infrastructure, the Pentagon is looking for public and private partners to help them reduce their costs.

When it is completed, the Woodring runway expansion will do just that. It will allow all three aircraft flying out of Vance Air Force Base — the T-6, T-1 and T-38 — to utilize Woodring.

That will not only help enhance the Air Force’s mission, said Cooper, but will save the Pentagon money.

That will become even more important in 2015, when there are plans to shut down Vance’s outside runway — the one the T-38s use — for resurfacing.

This project has come about as the result of public and private partnership, from the support of Gov. Mary Fallin and the OSMPC, to the state’s congressional delegation led by Sen. Jim Inhofe, to the city of Enid and the Vance Development Authority.

Breaking ground on the project now demonstrates the city and state’s firm commitment to the project, which will lengthen Woodring’s runway to 8,000 feet.

Even though no BRAC round looms on the political horizon, military communities cannot rest easy. It is reassuring to know Enid still is actively engaged in its ongoing effort to protect and enhance the mission at Vance Air Force Base.

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