Larsen: NASWI fits well into President’s defense strategy

Jan 18, 2012

Whidbey Crosswind

By: Kathy Reed

January 18, 2012

Plans to bring the P-8A Poseidon to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island fit perfectly into the defense strategy President Obama unveiled earlier this month, according to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

The Second District Democrat sent a letter to Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, on Jan. 11, which emphasized  NASWI’s strategic importance in the Obama administration’s shift toward the Asia-Pacific region. Larsen’s letter was in response to a letter from Greenert in December, which asserted the Navy’s plans to follow the Record of Decision to bring the Poseidon to NAS Whidbey.

Larsen said he had two main purposes in writing the letter.

“One, I want to keep the P-8A at NASWI on the Navy’s radar,” Larsen said last Friday. “And two, I wanted to use it to outline how I think the Navy ought to be thinking about using the P-8A.”

In the letter, Larsen said the P-8A’s can help in “identifying anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol capabilities in future conflict planning.” Larsen said NASWI will be a key home base for the Poseidons, as NAS Jacksonville cannot have a big impact on the East-Asia strategy because of its location and because NAS Keneohe Bay in Hawaii is at capacity. The letter urged the Department of Defense to remain committed to its 2008 Record of Decision.

Larsen said he had just returned from visiting bases on the West Coast and Hawaii and came away convinced NAS Whidbey will play an important role in the President’s East Asia pivot strategy.

“As important as it is to have our assets forward-deployed in the Pacific, it’s important to not have all our assets forward-deployed,” Larsen said. “Having the P-8A at Hawaii is important, just as it is important to have the P-8A on Whidbey Island, because we don’t want all our assets forward deployed.”

When asked whether he is concerned the DoD will change the Record of Decision in the future, Larsen said no.

“If there are any changes to the Record of Decision, that is a public process,” he said. “We’re all going to know about it if the Navy wants to change it. There are checks in place on that whole process.”

Larsen also said he’s not terribly concerned over the more than $450 billion in budget cuts facing the DoD, because they represent cuts in the expected growth of the defense budget.

“The end result is still an overall increase in spending,” he said. “The August debt deal means tough decisions all over the federal budget. Can we do these and still maintain the national security investment the country expects? I think so far the answer is yes.”