VIRGINIA BEACH—Naval Air Station Oceana could be endangered in the years ahead as the Department of Defense deals with sequestration and other budgetary issues, according to a noted economist.
Old Dominion University Economics Professor James Koch briefed Virginia Beach City Council Tuesday on the impact of defense spending reductions.
In his report, Koch discussed the short-term impact of sequestration, specifically furloughs for 39,000 Department of Defense civilian employees over 14 weeks, and the possible delays or cancellations of local ship-repair contracts.
“These cuts, while difficult, will be tolerable,” said Koch.
However, Koch sounded an ominous warning about the City of Virginia Beach’s long-term outlook, saying, “Virginia Beach is susceptible to significant reductions on D.O.D. spending.”
Koch cited three factors- the repositioning of aircraft carriers, the possible de-emphasis of aircraft carriers in our nation’s future military strategy, and the spiraling cost of major weapons systems.
Together, Koch said, the three factors, “point to the loss of air wings at Oceana Naval Air Station.”
In 2005, the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission, citing residential and commercial encroachment, voted to realign Oceana. The commissioners’ intention was to move Oceana’s 18 jet squadrons' operations to Cecil Field, Florida. But, in November, a voter referendum in Jacksonville rejected the idea of re-opening the closed air base, and the jet squadrons along with 14,000 workers remained at Oceana.
In the years since, the City of Virginia Beach and the Commonwealth of Virginia have spent approximately $15 million per year to buy back dozens of acres in non-conforming properties near Oceana and Fentress Field in Chesapeake.
Despite that, the danger of possible closure seems to remain. In recent weeks, the Department of Defense has proposed new BRAC rounds in 2015 and 2017, but thus far Congress has not authorized the plan.