Smith pushes for funding for new hangar at base

A project supporting a critical mission at Joint Base McGuire-Dix- Lakehurst (JB-MDL) in south central New Jersey that Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) has been working on since 2008 is included in the Army’s fiscal year 2013 budget, according to a press release from Smith’s office.

The Army’s proposed budget includes $47 million for a new aviation hangar to house the Communications and Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) FlightActivity (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 groundwork, 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. “We started with Gen. Fred D. Robinson Jr., then-commander of CFA’s parent command, who concurred that the CFA mission at Lakehurst is an ‘essential capability.’ ”

Smith said that since the U.S. 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, Eatontown, — during the last round of base closing announcements in 2005, he was determined to work with the Army to make sure the mission had an appropriate home at Lakehurst and would not be uprooted in any future base closings.

“I then met with and spoke toArmy 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.”

According to the press release, the new hangar will replace Hangar 5 on the Lakehurst side of JB-MDL. Hangar 5 is a 1940sera 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 work force, but a longterm 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 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.” According to the press release, the DOD budget also includes $34 million for a Regional Training Institute (RTI) on the National Guard Training Facility Center in Sea Girt, Monmouth County.

The funding will go to construct a complex that upgrades and consolidates training facilities on the installation where National 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.

President Barack Obama’s budget request is a critical first step in the funding process, according to the press release from Smith’s office. 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.