NAWS makes progress toward full operability

McCarthy fast-tracks $100 million to reopen bases impacted by disaster

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

NAWS makes progress toward full operabilityFollowing the 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes that rocked Indian Wells and Searles valleys last week, China Lake — virtually on the epicenter of both quakes and thousands of subsequent aftershocks — was deemed “non mission capable.”

On July 9, Naval Air Weapons Station Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Dale gave local and national media a tour on July 9 of some of the 1,200 facilities located on 1.2 million acres of property.

Since then, NAWS has made rapid progress toward assessing the 1,200 facilities on their 1.2-million-acre property, announcing a return to normal operations for many services — including flight testing at VX-9. (See also NAWS Facebook page for more updates).

NAWS was still open to essential-personnel-only by press time, with the discretion for which of the thousands of employees at China Lake qualify for that description being left to the 23 separate tenant commands.

During a July 16 update, Dale said that NAWS is making “good progress toward a complete return to operations.”

Workers have been braving 110-degree heat in order to get utilities repaired and restored to most facilities. Assessments to understand cost estimates and structural integrity continue.

Last week, Congressman Kevin McCarthy announced that he introduced an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act to fast-track $100 million to start relief and rebuilding efforts at the bases damaged in the earthquakes.

Trevor Smith, a staffer out of McCarthy’s capitol office, said that because of the ban on earmarked funding, the House of Representatives broadened the relief funds to include Edwards Air Force Base and Fort Irwin Army Base.

“We are looking at this as regional support,” said Smith. While getting China Lake back online is the current priority, they have included contingencies for future damages at the neighboring bases since the NDAA is moving through congress right now.

The provision meets the first step of a two-pronged process, he said. Now that projects are authorized, they still have to be appropriated.

“The challenge is that the funding bill has already moved out of the House,” said Smith. “The NDAA is being considered this week, so it’s a good opportunity to do what we can to get funds.”

The $100 million in repairs are based on conservative estimates, he said, but those numbers can be adjusted as more details become available.

“Despite the destruction, our American spirit has prevailed in the face of adversity, with people from all over the state coming together to help our neighbors. But we are still recovering,” said McCarthy.

He said the authorization will help meet the most immediate needs to modernize infrastructure and facilities as part of the efforts to return to mission-capability.

“We will make China Lake stronger and better.

“These bases are critical to the region and our national security, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this amendment to provide much-needed assistance to areas most impacted by the earthquakes in Ridgecrest and other natural disasters.”

Rep. Paul Cook, who represents part of the footprint for China Lake, added his support to the authorization.

“Last week’s earthquakes damaged key military installations in our area. Congress has a duty to ensure these bases are operational and mission-ready.

“We owe it to our men and women in uniform that they have the best tools possible to defend our national security. I thank Leader McCarthy for joining me in recognizing the importance of this amendment and hope that the House will pass it this week.”

Pictured: NAWS Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Dale (left) gives national media a tour of damaged facilities on the base — including the historic All Faith Chapel (background) - Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2019-07-10