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Senate committee nays OLF

By Staff
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee wants to hold the purse strings on a proposed outlying landing field in Washington and Beaufort counties, but is prepared to commit money for the Navy to look elsewhere.
The ink isn’t dry on the Senate committee’s “mark up” of the defense bill for 2008, but it would nix the $10 million the Defense Department sought for a line item labeled “NOLF Washington County.” That line item appears in a budgetary request the Defense Department submitted to Congress months ago for the coming fiscal year.
The committee instead would be willing to allocate $5 million for the Navy to explore alternative sites in North Carolina and Virginia, according to Mike McCord, a lead committee staffer for Sen. Carl Levin. Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.
The committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Bill passed Wednesday and will be brought to the full Senate the first week of June, McCord said.
The language related to the landing field was based on suggestions from North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, according to McCord. Dole, a Republican, is also a member of the Armed Services Committee. Attempts to reach Dole were not successful Friday.
The U.S. House has already approved 23 lines in the defense bill that would ban the Navy from coming to Washington and Beaufort counties. That vote, 397-27, came last week. Because the House bill doesn’t include an appropriation for exploring other sites, the bills are likely to head to a conference committee so the differences can be ironed out by late summer.
Even so, area opponents of the Navy’s plans believe they are much closer to keeping military pilots from practicing carrier landings next door to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.