Enid News: Area leaders brief D.C. delegation

Mar 08, 2011
In The News

ENID — Cooperation among the city of Enid, the state and Oklahoma’s congressional delegation was the prime topic Tuesday as local leaders met with Pentagon officials.

As part of the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., representatives of the chamber and the city met with several Air Force leaders Tuesday and discussed efforts to improve and enhance the mission at Vance Air Force Base.

Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, said the meetings highlighted projects designed to support Vance and its mission.

“We briefed them on all the infrastructure and quality of life issues we have completed recently,” Cooper said.

Among those are the improvements to Wheat Capital Road south of the base designed to support the new Armed Forces Reserve Center. The group also briefed Air Force brass on the redundant water line project that services the base as well as plans for a new joint-use hangar at Enid Woodring Regional Airport.

“We tried to show them the cooperative effort between the community, state and congressional delegation,” Cooper said.

The group met with Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the Air Force vice chief of staff; Maj. Gen. Lori Robinson, the Air Force legislative liaison; Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers, Air Force civil engineer; and Kevin Geiss, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for energy.

“Gen. Breedlove thanked us for our community-base relationship and all the things we do to assist them as they continue to carry out their mission and do it better,” Cooper said.

Breedlove particularly highlighted the Oklahoma Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act, passed by the state legislature and signed into law last year. The measure, which regulates construction near public airports and military air fields, is designed to help protect military and civilian air space.

“We set the standard,” Cooper said. “The Air Force is working with other states and other entities and using that as model legislation. The No. 1 military value for an air training base is air space.”

The group, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, also highlighted plans to build new schools and work on existing schools to be funded by last year’s $99 million bond issue, as well as plans for the $20 million downtown Enid Renaissance project.

The discussion also focused on the future of the Air Force and Vance. Breedlove discussed the number of pilots the Air Force will need, in light of the increasing emphasis on remotely piloted aircraft. In the next decade, the Air Force plans to deploy more remote vehicles, including a new, stealthy RPA fighter, as well as a remotely piloted bomber.

“We tried to communicate we understand the Air Force is transforming itself,” Cooper said. “There are a lot of different things the Air Force is going to be doing in training. Why not look toward Oklahoma and look toward Vance to do some of those things? We will work to facilitate any change in the mission or growth of the mission.”

Today the chamber group will meet with representatives Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, James Lankford, R-OKC, and Lucas, and Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe. This evening, the Enid group will host a reception for military leaders and the state’s congressional delegation.

“It is an opportunity to visit with our congressional delegation about things the community is doing to help support Vance,” said Jon Blankenship, president and chief executive officer of Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce. “It is also an opportunity for us to provide updates on important quality of life projects and investments in the city.”

Curt Roggow, government relations consultant for The Wind Coalition, will report on wind energy; new Northern Oklahoma College president Cheryl Evans on Enid school improvements; and airport manager Dan Ohnesorge on plans for Woodring. Brent Kisling, executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance, will present an economic overview, while Blankenship will report on health care and concerns about environmental regulations.

“We’ll also have the opportunity to talk about issues facing major sectors of our economy,” Blankenship said, “like health care reform and its impact on the medical center, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) proposed carbon regulations and the negative impact they will have on power plants, agricultural fertilizer production and the oil and gas industry, all key sectors in our economy.”

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