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WILLOW GROVE, PA-After two years of legal wrangling over the fate of the 1,100-acre Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Congress and President Bush have legislated that the base will be saved. This paves the way for Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to convert it into a security hub that will house military units and civilian emergency response and preparedness agencies.

Under that proposal, the Navy was asked to transfer the base to the Air Force, which would then lease it to the state short-term. The state would work to attract government agencies, such as Homeland Security, FEMA and the EPA, and once that was accomplished, the Air Force would transfer base ownership to the state. The Navy, however, turned down the proposal.

The federal legislation overrode the Navy and has ordered it to make the military-to-military transfer. The legislation is contained in a provision in the US Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007, passed by Congress in late May and later signed into law by the president.

Rendell thanked the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation for its support in preserving the base. “Congress; did the right thing when they directed the Navy to transfer [the base] for designation as a joint interagency installation for use by the Pennsylvania National Guard, as well as other Department of Defense components and government agencies,” he says in a statement.

He singled out Reps. John Murtha and Allyson Schwartz, who represents this area, along with Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey for special thanks. Specter is a member of the Homeland Security subcommittee and said the antiterrorism component planned for Willow Grove could not be duplicated elsewhere.

In 2005, the Base Closure and Realignment Commission included the 64-year-old base on its list of base closures. Among Rendell’s efforts to save the base was a lawsuit against then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, charging that DoD had violated a Constitutional provision that prohibits it from altering a National Guard base without consent of a governor. A federal appeals court dismissed the case this April.

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