10/17/08 — Seymour Johnson to get $12 million for new facility

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Seymour Johnson to get $12 million for new facility

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 17, 2008 1:46 PM

When President Bush signed the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday evening, he authorized $612.5 billion in budget authority for defense programs in 2009.

More than $12 million of that is coming to Goldsboro.

The legislation ensures funding that will result in the construction of an energy-efficient consolidated service center and the removal of several World War II-era buildings at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mark Kelly welcomed the news, likening the project to phasing out aging aircraft.

"It's the same reason we go from an F-4 to an F-15E model. The mission capability requires that we modernize," he said. "As part of the Air Force, we are committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for the airmen. This allows us to maintain training excellence in supporting our mission by providing air power, on-target, on-time for America."

Local officials like Seymour Support Council chairman Troy Pate have been pursuing funding for the project for the better part of the decade.

After a tour of the buildings that will soon be replaced with a new state-of-the-art facility, he and others determined Seymour Johnson airmen "deserve better."

"It's kind of been an ongoing effort we have worked in Washington every time we have been up there," he said. "So this last time we went, we took pictures of some of those old buildings. ... That was our pitch. We had prepared a booklet ... to outline what our problems were. We spread those around the Congress as best we could."

The booklet was enough to convince several state representatives to back the project -- Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr and U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Walter Jones.

Sen. Dole said she saw a "clear need" for the funding.

"The buildings that now support Seymour Johnson's personnel functions date from the 1950s, and some of them aren't in good shape," she said Thursday. "Once the new center is in operation, it will make an outstanding installation even better."

Jones agreed, and said he is convinced that the new center will greatly increase efficiency and productivity on Seymour Johnson.

"I am very grateful to Senators Dole and Burr for working to make this funding a reality," he said.

Pate also celebrated the news.

"I guess I am kind of elated," he said.

But not simply because he helped champion a worthy cause.

"Everybody thinks the Base Realignment and Closure Commission is over. BRAC is not over," Pate said. "We are basically in a perpetual BRAC. So everything we can do at this base now is going to help us when they come."

Still, he knows one facility, alone, can't save a military base.

So he and other local officials will continue to look for ways to improve the quality of life both on and around Seymour Johnson.

"We have some other things that really need doing. We have other issues on the table," Pate said. "Nobody is BRAC-proof. So you just do all you can."