August 5, 2015 – Omaha.com
Cities and towns sometimes make the mistake of allowing land near military bases to develop without consideration of a base’s needs.
Omaha, Bellevue, Papillion and Council Bluffs officials have shown that they know better, as have those in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties. Offutt Air Force Base contributes $1.3 billion to the region’s economy, employs more than 10,000 people and supports thousands more.
So it was good to see the metro area — and Bellevue, in particular — get high marks for cooperation in a report the Pentagon uses to help evaluate Offutt and its future. The seven-month, Defense Department-funded joint land use study credits several layers of local and state government for protecting land around Offutt.
Strong relationships are key amid resurgent talk of Defense Department budget cuts and the ever-present possibility of base closures.
The report identified 21 “minor” areas where some work is required, things like installing new safety barriers along Fort Crook Road. One of the biggest issues identified is fixing the levees that protect Offutt land from Missouri River flooding. Some work is underway, but the levee system needs an estimated $25 million in upgrades to remain federally certified to resist flooding.
In this environment, bases without the necessary cooperation, even for a time, can see their operations and chances for growth threatened.
Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach, Virginia, is one example. New housing built too close to the station led to neighbor complaints. Navy fears about encroachment nearly moved the station to Florida. Salvaging it required costly local land use changes, acquisition of property, noise mitigation, even special street lights.
That’s a mess Offutt’s backers want to avoid, and have. While no military base’s future is guaranteed — and Offutt’s main runway needs repaved — the base is in better shape than many others. Work continues on a new, $1.2 billion headquarters for U.S. Strategic Command. The base also hosts the 55th Wing and Air Force Weather Agency.
Offutt’s needs are valued by every level of state and local government, from the governor’s office to the local natural resources district.
Military bases perform vital national security missions. They also boost the economies of their home communities, driving new spending by military members, contractors and businesses.
But they need room to breathe. And the freedom to operate without meddling and second-guessing from their neighbors who benefit.
In the Omaha area, they get that space. Because of that, the military can do its important work, now and well into the future.
The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.