Final Hurdle Cleared for Planes at Tinker / Purchase of Land Next

Article excerpt

Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City will become home to two Navy squadrons which will fly the E-6A communications aircraft, it was announced Thursday.

That announcement came from Oklahoma's Congressional Delegation after Acting Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett III sent a letter to Congress confirming Tinker as the most cost-effective option for moving the squadrons.

Construction can begin immediately now that the last major hurdle for the move has been cleared. When House and Senate negotiators approved $11.8 million for construction of Navy facilities at Tinker in December, they required the report before the funds could be spent.

"With transmittal of this report, we have cleared the last major hurdle," said a joint announcement from six members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation, "and the Navy can start spending the (funds) to begin construction."

Purchase of the land where the facilities are to be built is expected to begin May 1, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce President Clyde Ingle said Thursday.

However, Paul Strasbaugh, his administrative assistant, refused to discuss the impending purchase, saying merely that military engineers are evaluating the property, and negotiations may begin soon.

"They have to determine market price," he said, "then get a bid, receive authorization and purchase orders before anything can be done.

"If you want information, you'll have to contact the engineers."

The chamber holds an option on land near Tinker, Strasbaugh said, but he refused to say where it was located or how many acres it contained.

In late January, U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., said the government already was in the process of acquiring land at the southwest corner of the intersection of SE 59th St. and S. Midwest Blvd. near the General Motors Corp. assembly plant. The purchase was reportedly being made by the General Services Administration.

Although Garrett's letter clears the path for immediate construction, there was no word from the Navy Department as to when it would begin. That information is expected today.

In that letter, Garrett said that Tinker is the most cost-effective option for moving the E-6A "TACAMO" aircraft from the Naval Air Station, Barbers Point, Hawaii and the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md.

"...This base (Tinker) affords maximum survivability against Soviet attack," the letter said, "provides operation flexibility for deployment for these vital communications assets, ensures effective aircraft support and maintenance and is least costly to the taxpayer. …

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