Va. CoDel sends letter of support for Army Aviation Support Facility funding

A Virginia Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter prepares to take off for a training flight Jan. 27, 2020, at the Virginia National Guard Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the U.S. Army National Guard Jan. 24, 2020, urging that funds needed for a new Virginia National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility in Richmond be prioritized as part of the Future Years Defense Program. The current lease with the Richmond Airport expires in 2032, and the future of Virginia Army National Guard aviation capability could be at risk without funding for the new facility.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Virginia Congressional Delegation for their letter of support to prioritize funding for a new Army Aviation Support Facility,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy. P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “While our current lease ending in 2032 might seem very far off, it is just a heartbeat in the military construction process. If we don’t secure the funding for a new facility and have it constructed before the lease ends, we could lose some or all of our aviation units because they don’t have the resources needed to operate. We hope the support of our Congressional Delegation will move the process forward and help us secure the funding we need.”

The Virginia National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility provides full-time support to aviation units including flight operations, safety, maintenance, standardization and training. Approximately 120 full-time employees at the AASF and the annex at the Chesterfield County Airport support a number of aircraft including 18 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, three HH-60 medical evacuation Black Hawk helicopters, four UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopters and a C-12 twin turboprop passenger and cargo aircraft.

“Virginia Army National Guard aviation units have played a vital role in our nation’s warfight and peacekeeping operations in the last 18 years with federal active duty deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo,” Williams said. “They are also an important part of the state’s emergency response capabilities. Our aviation crews have flown multiple missions to get critical supplies to Tangier Island when it was iced over, and our ongoing partnership with Chesterfield County provides rescue hoist capabilities that could save lives in the wake of hazardous weather situations. We also provide counterdrug aviation support to multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within the commonwealth.”

VNG aviation crews have also deployed out of state to Texas and South Carolina to provide addition rescue hoist capabilities after significant hurricane activity in those states.

“This project is the number one priority for the Virginia Army National Guard and is desperately needed to replace aging and undersized facilities at Richmond International Airport, which are no longer suitable for mission execution,” wrote the members of Congress in the letter released by Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. “Additionally, the existing facility must be vacated by the National Guard as they have been formally notified by the airfield that their lease will not be renewed in order to make way for a planned runway expansion.”

The full news release from Senators Warner and Kaine as well as the full text of the Congressional Delegation letter is copied below:

Va. DELEGATION PUSHES ARMY NATIONAL GUARD TO INCLUDE NEW RICHMOND AVIATION FACILITY IN DOD BUDGET
~ Letter urges the Army National Guard to prioritize the new Richmond aviation facility, current facility no longer suits operational needs ~

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and the entire Virginia congressional delegation urged the U.S. Army National Guard to prioritize funding for a new aviation facility in Richmond, Va. as part of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). With the current facility already impacting mission execution, the funding will help complete a much-needed facility to house the Virginia Army National Guard’s 28-aircraft fleet by the time its current lease with the Richmond Airport expires in 2032. The FYDP is typically included as part of the President’s budget, which outlines the programs and budget requests for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

“This project is the number one priority for the Virginia Army National Guard and is desperately needed to replace aging and undersized facilities at Richmond International Airport, which are no longer suitable for mission execution,” wrote the members of Congress. “Additionally, the existing facility must be vacated by the National Guard as they have been formally notified by the airfield that their lease will not be renewed in order to make way for a planned runway expansion. Due to the criticality of this capability for the National Guard, the Commonwealth of Virginia has appropriated $4.5 million in state funding to support this project, even though state contribution is not required.”

To date, the project has been dependent on incremental phases and funding. In their letter to the U.S. Army National Guard, the members of Congress reiterated full federal funding is required to complete the aviation facility that is better suited for their operational needs and ensures that it will be ready in time for the pending relocation.

“The Virginia Army National Guard continues to compete the Army Aviation Support Facility project in phases, with Phase I being successfully placed on the FY24 FYDP. Unfortunately, the algorithms used for such competition make it highly unlikely that the entire requirement will be funded before the Virginia Army National Guard’s aviation fleet is ejected from its current facility. This concern, in conjunction with the cost savings and operational efficiencies of designing and constructing the facility as a single project, lead us to believe that the best solution for the mission and the taxpayers is to fund the entire requirement of $89 million in one fiscal year,” concluded the members of Congress.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

LTG Daniel R. Hokanson
Director, Army National Guard
111 S. George Mason Drive
Arlington, VA 22204

Dear LTG Hokanson,

We write in strong support of the proposed Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) for the Virginia National Guard. We urge you to consider identifying this project in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), and ideally request funding in the upcoming release of the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2021.

As you are aware, this project would construct a 228,000 square foot facility to support the Virginia National Guard’s Army aviation mission. This project is the number one priority for the Virginia Army National Guard and is desperately needed to replace aging and undersized facilities at Richmond International Airport, which are no longer suitable for mission execution. Additionally, the existing facility must be vacated by the National Guard as they have been formally notified by the airfield that their lease will not be renewed in order to make way for a planned runway expansion. Due to the criticality of this capability for the National Guard, the Commonwealth of Virginia has appropriated $4.5 million in state funding to support this project, even though state contribution is not required.

This military construction project will move the AASF to land already licensed to the Virginia Army National Guard that has an existing armory and airport access, two factors that yield significant construction and operational savings. The new facility is optimally located to support the National Capital Region and Hampton Roads military economic complex during natural or man-made disasters, while far enough removed to be less impacted by such events in these critical national security regions. The project will support the Virginia Army National Guard’s entire aviation fleet consisting of 28 aircraft. These aircraft support the combined arms training and readiness of forces for national defense, as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s disaster response and recovery capabilities for Title 32 and Title 10 National Guard Civil Support missions.

The Virginia Army National Guard continues to compete the Army Aviation Support Facility project in phases, with Phase I being successfully placed on the FY24 FYDP. Unfortunately, the algorithms used for such competition make it highly unlikely that the entire requirement will be funded before the Virginia Army National Guard’s aviation fleet is ejected from its current facility. This concern, in conjunction with the cost savings and operational efficiencies of designing and constructing the facility as a single project, lead us to believe that the best solution for the mission and the taxpayers is to fund the entire requirement of $89 million in one fiscal year.

The Virginia Army National Guard completed an extensive site selection study and master plan to 10% design, as well as environmental, historical, and soils studies for the proposed location. This project is critical to the viability of the Army aviation mission for the Virginia Army National Guard and would help the National Guard save lease costs necessitated by the loss of the current facility, absent this MILCON. Given the critical nature of the operational needs for the Army aviation mission and the upcoming deadline for the relocation of these operations, we hope you will give all due consideration to funding this project in the near future. As you know, the Virginia National Guard always answers the call to service for the defense of the nation, and plays a pivotal role in the safekeeping of the National Capital Region and the Hampton Roads military economic complex.

We appreciate your attention to and consideration of this request, and we look forward to your favorable response on this matter. Our Congressional Delegation stands ready to support you in this important military construction project.

Sincerely,