As you know from the area news outlets and the Federal Register, a significant development occurred this week that impacts the future of MCAS Cherry Point and, therefore, our region. The Navy has begun the process for determining where to base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Out of approximately 12 possible sites for the JSF along the East Coast, the Navy has identified MCAS Cherry Point and MCAS Beaufort as the two best locations for the placement of training and fleet aircraft. The impact of the JSF's location is difficult to overstate.
The five alternatives being considered by the Navy split the placement in various ways between MCAS Cherry Point and MCAS Beaufort. We could see as many as 178 jets at Cherry Point, or as few as 40. Over time, these jets would replace the current Harriers. However, the Super Hornets would be in addition to the JSF numbers.
In terms of economic impact, if the Navy bases 11 squadrons at MCAS Cherry Point, we estimate that $400 million in military construction funds would be spent upgrading the base. Once the JSF arrives, the exact economic impact is unknown, but I believe it will be at least as much as the Harriers--and probably more. Currently, the estimate for a Harrier squadron economic impact on our region is about $25 million a year. (Keep in mind that the Navy's Super Hornet squadrons, based on data from Norfolk, can reach $50 million.)
There are a few key points I'd like you to consider:
1. Please lend your support at the upcoming Navy's JSF open houses. We need you to attend to learn more about the JSF and to show our support for the JSF being based at Cherry Point. These run from 4PM until 7PM meetings are located at:
- February 10, 2009, Havelock Tourist and Event Center, 201
Tourist Center Drive, Havelock, NC.
- February 11, 2009, Emerald Isle Community Center, 7500 Emerald
Isle Dr., Emerald Isle, NC.
- February 12, 2009, Fred A. Anderson Elementary School,
Cafeteria, 507 Anderson Dr., Bayboro, NC.
The press will be there from 3:30 until 4, so the best opportunity for speaking to the press on these issues will be just before 4PM.
2. ACT is in regular contact with our Governor, state legislators, and US Congress members. We are updating them about these recent developments and seeking their input and support.
3. ACT is available to make presentations on the JSF to civic organizations and local boards. MCAS Cherry Point officials may also be able to brief local leaders.
4. The timeline for finalizing the Navy's plans is relatively short. The Navy has set a goal of late 2010 for its final decision. Construction upgrades and basing of the JSF could then begin.
5. ACT will need to develop a concrete action plan that focuses on support from the US Congress. The Navy's EIS process will weigh the pros and cons between North Carolina or South Carolina. In many ways, this will be a process similar to a major economic development initiative where states compete over landing a major factory--except that this is an even more important effort. The total economic impact to the Cherry Point region could exceed $500 million. If North Carolina is to be successful in the JSF basing process, we must seek and receive support from our Senators and Representatives. Once the JSFs are based, we will then need to work hard to ensure that the JSF program is fully funded. Remember, if the Congress does not budget for the JSF, there will be no JSF. We also need to defend vigorously the Super Hornet basing.
Overall, this is a real opportunity for our region and North Carolina. The JSF basing would be a tremendous positive economic impact that would be greater than any other private or public initiative we have seen for many years.