WILLOW GROVE, PA-A complicated deal that would have ultimately put excess Navy property at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve base in the hands of the state has come apart. It called for the Navy to transfer the base to the Air Force, which would lease it to the commonwealth short term as a joint interagency base.

In 2005, the BRAC Commission designated Willow Grove for closure. The proposal for a joint interagency base, as GlobeSt.com previously reported, was developed by Gov. Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania Congressional representatives and approved by Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

Under the proposal, during the lease-term, the state would work to attract governmental users, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Association, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Once that was accomplished, the Air Force would transfer base ownership to the state.

The Navy, however, notified the governor that it has rejected the Air Force’s request for a military to military transfer of the property. Gen. Jessica Wright, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard, tells GlobeSt.com, “Under BRAC Commission law, the commonwealth could not get Willow Grove, but mil-to-mil transfers are possible under BRAC law. We are extremely disappointed that the Navy has turned down this proposal.”

Willow Grove is one of few bases that houses both US military and state National Guard. “The Navy decision to reject the request of a sister service for military use of this property is extremely shortsighted,” says Gov. Rendell in a statement.

“We need to look no further than Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 attacks and last June’s floods in Pennsylvania to understand the importance of this resource to emergency preparedness,” he adds. “I believe the Navy is obliged by the wording of the BRAC Commission report to ensure that Willow Grove continues to support military operations, including flight operations of Pennsylvania National Guard units.”

Calling compliance with the BRAC requirements “mandatory,” he says he still believes the military transfer and lease to the commonwealth “represented an appropriate mechanism.” He vows, “We will vigorously pursue other options to achieve this goal as we work with our congressional delegation and local officials to prevent abandonment of this vital installation.” However, he declined to disclose what steps will be taken to attempt to maintain the base.

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