The Navy looks for open, honest dialogue on OLF

Published 10:28 pm Sunday, August 31, 2008

My goal as the Navy’s lead in locating the best site for the Outlying Landing Field (OLF) continues to be to pursue productive and positive discussions with all stakeholders.

We are working to identify potential opportunities to acquire a facility vital for training our nation’s pilots while also providing tangible benefits to a host community. These discussions have been ongoing since January, and will continue.

When discussions shift into a “no OLF” debate, very little progress can be made. The Navy remains committed to continue engaging positively with interested parties at the local, state and federal levels both in Virginia and North Carolina.

Since the Navy announcement of Jan. 22 on the new OLF sites, we have conducted more than 30 outreach activities, to include the scoping meetings, and more recently, meetings over the last 30 days with county officials to obtain their input on planning related issues.

Our public outreach has also included appearances on television and radio shows, many of which provide the opportunity for the public to dialogue directly with the Navy.

The Navy will continue to conduct this positive outreach with interested local, state, and federal entities in order to encourage productive dialogue.

Our goal is to have discussions on OLF-related issues — including how an OLF could influence future encroachment, offer potential land-lease opportunities, offer tax revenue and employment opportunities, and support associated public utilities and transportation initiatives across an entire region.

We are looking for opportunities that will not just mitigate and minimize negative factors but actually create economic and community positives.

The Navy will continue to engage all who are interested in this issue in order to develop constructive ideas and to encourage the leadership of the counties to at least consider these positive effects that could be gained for all area residents.

This is a new way of doing business for the Navy.

In the past, the focus has been primarily concerned with two issues: our operational requirements and the environmental impacts of those requirements.

As we continue to discuss possibilities, the Navy is working in support of a compatible economic win for the entire region. This must include inputs from the local communities.

An OLF can bring positive, neutral or negative impacts to a community. Our concern is not to allow negative feelings to shroud or preclude discussions of potential positive economic or other benefits to the community.

It is important to remember that the current process allows for those opposed to the project to publicly air that opposition, but we nonetheless remain committed to seeking the best solution.