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Navy secretary slates NAS Meridian visit

By By Buddy Bynum/editor
Jan. 9, 2002
Navy Secretary Gordon R. England plans to tour Naval Air Station Meridian next week at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.
Pickering, R-Miss., said Tuesday that England, a former General Dynamics Corp. executive named by President Bush last year as the Navy's civilian head, would likely be on the base Monday.
England's visit comes as Congress considers whether to set up another round of base closures, perhaps in 2005, and Department of Defense officials assess how to reform the nation's military structure. The Meridian base survived three base closure rounds in 1991, 1993 and 1995.
At the current time, defense officials are also considering where to place a permanent base for the Navy's newest jet fighter, the F-18 Super Hornet. Meridian is reportedly one of the potential sites, along with bases in California and North Carolina, but local officials have said in the past they would prefer that NAS Meridian retain its training mission.
Pickering said it is possible that some of the Super Hornet training programs could be located at NAS Meridian, although no final decisions have been made.
Military projects at NAS Meridian were included in a $317.4 billion funding bill for the Department of Defense cleared by Congress last month.
The base will receive $179 million for six T-45C trainer aircraft, $4.1 million for improved runway lighting and $1.4 million for the Regional Counter-Drug Training Facility.
England's visit follows on the heels of a visit by the chief of naval operations, who was at NAS Meridian last August.