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This is national security

Key to maintaining the mission at China Lake is making sure Washington understands how uniquely important the country’s investment in the base has been, particularly when the next Base Realignment and Closure rolls around.

Pete Wilson

By Jessica Weston, CITY EDITOR, jweston@ridgecrestca.com
Posted Jan. 27, 2016 at 12:01 AM

Key to maintaining the mission at China Lake is making sure Washington understands how uniquely important the country’s investment in the base has been, particularly when the next Base Realignment and Closure rolls around.

That was one message from former Gov. Pete Wilson, who capped off his visit to this area with a meet and greet at the Springhill Suites Monday night. Wilson, who is co-chair of the Southwest Defense Alliance, took advantage of one last opportunity to express his support of the research and development taking place on the base and to thank the people of Ridgecrest for supporting it. Earlier in the day, he was guest speaker at the China Lake Alliance luncheon.

Wilson started off by mentioning a briefing he attended with retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John Regni, retired Navy Vice Adm. Peter Hekman, Sean Walsh and “General Denny, an old friend” earlier that day. The joint briefing was given by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Executive Director Joan Johnson and included NAWCWD Commander Rear Adm. Brian Corey and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commanding Officer Capt. Rich Wiley, aboard NAWS China Lake.

“It was a remarkable afternoon. I am struck by the irony of the fact that what we witnessed this afternoon can’t be discussed publicly. Now the nice thing about China Lake is that it has a long and incredibly distinguished history. We can talk about the past. We can’t talk about the present when we’re doing our best to avoid cyber attacks from the people who’d want to steal the secrets.”

He described the briefing as one of the best he had ever attended, even as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve never had one that topped this, damn few that came close. Because it is the cutting edge.

“My concern is that it be adequately funded so that it can continue all the different programs that are truly cutting edge. To say that they will safeguard America’s freedom understates it. Our freedom is always threatened. Unhappily, that’s the way it is in the world. There is evil in the world. Some people can’t quite grasp that but there are a lot of people in this room that understand it very well.”

Despite the inability to reveal sensitive information, Wilson said, people of this area have every reason to be proud of their contribution to keeping the country safe. “The point that I think I made this noon—I will just say it briefly. If you are seen by your enemies as being strong and having superior military capabilities, much as they might want to they’re not going to pick a fight with someone they know will clean their clock. And that is the situation.”

Wilson noted that the briefing with Corey “was very, very enlightening but he broke no rules. Much as we all pressed him to do so, he didn’t,” he added with a laugh.

“The real question is how can we help? How can we make certain that this remarkable facility and the people who are bringing to it all their skills and dedication have what they need in order to do the job that they want to do?” Key to this question is supporting China Lake’s position in the next BRAC, he said.

“We don’t know when it will be but there will be a next one.”

What is needed is to support Regni’s position that it would be foolish to move or short-change the base, he said. “And I think that he’s right in his analysis. To move this would be an act of criminal neglect or worse. Because there is an enormous amount invested here in the security of this nation. So I don’t think that it’s likely that it’s going to be moved that quickly,” he said. “Absolutely grounds for impeachment!” he said with a laugh, drawing out more laughter from the crowd.

“But what is true is that much as I would like to think that there would be a broad bi-partisan chorus singing the praises of it, congress is full of people who have duties to their districts. They are in a representative government and their idea of being representatives is to get, in many cases, as much they can of what they regard as pork.

“This is not pork. This is national security.”

Wilson thanked Jon McQuiston and everyone who put together the Southwest Defense Alliance. “As it happens this corner of the nation has given more in land, and — I would argue — a whole lot more than just land, to the other people of the United States.

“But we need to make certain that there is understanding in Washington and particularly at the Pentagon with the people in the next BRAC as to exactly how unique and how uniquely important this investment has been and continues to be.”

Wilson spoke highly of Kevin McCarthy. “I’m sure he’s been through some briefings. And I’m sure he is as proud of this facility and the people who have made it what it is as he should be.” He also thanked everyone responsible for the success of China Lake. “You have my gratitude and I will just say congratulations for a job well done, a job superbly done.”

Wilson ended with a toast to the city of Ridgecrest. “So while I rarely touch alcohol—that’s the first lie I have told today—I wish to make a toast.

“To the people of Ridgecrest who have been so supportive of this irreplaceable national treasure, which is absolutely essential to the security of this nation and therefore the free world.”

That’s a pretty good way to be able to describe Ridgecrest, he said.