Forbes’ OLF amendment nixed

Published 10:26 am Saturday, October 24, 2009

WASHINGTON—The annual national defense policy bill will not contain an amendment introduced by Congressman Randy Forbes, R-Va., that would have given localities a final say over an Outlying Landing Field.

On Thursday the Senate voted 68-29 to pass bill HR2647, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Forbes, the ranking member of the House Readiness Subcommittee, introduced an amendment in June that would have barred the Navy from constructing an OLF if the locality — more than likely a county and its governing board of supervisors — formally opposed the plan within 90 days of its selection by the Navy.

“Unfortunately, the Senate conferees removed my amendment,” Forbes said Friday, adding that it was supported by the House Armed Services Committee and the full House of Representatives.

“While we were hopeful that the final bill would have included the provision, this is only one step in the process,” Forbes said. “My position on the OLF has not changed: I do not plan to support funding for an OLF if, at the end of the Navy’s process, Southampton and Sussex determine that they do not want it.”

Despite Forbes’ amendment, Congress still could have authorized an OLF if it enacted specific legislation to do so.

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Jim Webb, D-Va., both voted in favor of the bill on Thursday. Forbes voted against it in the House on Oct. 8, but the bill passed anyway, 281-146.

Tony Clark, chairman of the group Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field, said he wasn’t surprised Forbes’ amendment was axed.

“We were very grateful when that legislation was initially put in, but I don’t think that any of us held out any real hope that it would make it out of conference,” Clark said. “We’ve never had any support at the Senate level. That’s all there is to it.”

Clark said the Navy’s announcement in August that it would evaluate whether or not to base its new fighter plane, the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach was the bigger issue at the moment.

“I think that has a lot more to do with the future of the OLF and its possible stationing in this community versus any amendments that were pulled out of the conference report,” Clark said.

The Navy says it needs to construct an OLF because the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake, another OLF that currently supports Oceana, has issues with capacity shortage and encroachment from development.

The Navy has identified five sites, three in Virginia and two in North Carolina, for the proposed OLF.