Key US House Members Oppose Disbanding Pedro

Key US House Members Oppose Disbanding Pedro

March 27, 2015

 
Cherry Point - Pedro Search and Rescue Helicopter

CHERRY POINT, NC: Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow welcomes a Congressional push to protect the Marine Corps search and rescue (SAR) mission from being disbanded. The Marine Corps’ 2015 Aviation Plan called for the phase-out of the local SAR mission, affectionately called Pedro, by the end of 2015, for cost-savings reasons. A March 25 letter from a bipartisan coalition of North Carolina and Arizona members of the US House called for the prohibition on funds that would be used to disband Marine Corps SAR missions. These “vital units” must not be disbanded at least for next fiscal year, the letter concluded.

“ACT has worked closely with our Congressional delegation to bring our concerns about Pedro to the attention of the Pentagon and key House and Senate committees,” said Pete Rose, who represents ACT in Washington, DC. “In one of his first joint letters with Rep. Walter Jones, Senator Thom Tillis wrote to the Secretary of the Navy about his serious concerns over Pedro’s future. This most recent letter is a clear signal to the Congress and Pentagon that SAR is a core Marine Corps mission that should not be thrown off,” he added

“I believe we need to carefully evaluate the full consequences of removing Pedro from the Marine Corps’ capabilities. ACT is concerned that loosing Pedro will end MCAS Cherry Point’s role in SAR without a viable replacement plan,” said Greg Lewis, President of ACT.

“If the US Coast Guard was to assume the SAR mission for Eastern North Carolina, the air assets would have to be located outside of the operational training areas for MCAS Cherry Point, and MCB Camp Lejeune. This would result in lengthened response times during critical emergencies, not only for the Marines but also for any Air Force units that Pedro supports in times of emergency,” said Frank Bottorff, Havelock City Manager and former base commanding officer at MCAS Cherry Point.

The 2015 Marine Aviation Plan announced that Marine Corps Aviation will divest the dedicated SAR mission at MCAS Cherry Point during the first quarter of fiscal year 2016. The Aviation Plan states, without any details or explanation, that the U.S. Coast Guard will take over Pedro’s over-water SAR responsibilities.

“Although Pedro is a vital part of the Marine Corps presence in our region and is greatly valued by our local citizens, the plan to eliminate SAR from MCAS Cherry Point has not been explained or justified to the local community or our elected officials. ACT feels that the Aviation Plan does not address several key issues critical to MCAS Cherry Point and their civilian partners throughout the local region,” said James Norment, a local member of ACT’s legal and lobbying team.

ACT has urged local governments and interested persons to raise important questions about the loss of Pedro. For example:

  • Although the Marine Corps’ SAR mission is a valued and critically important part of MCAS Cherry Point’s service to its Marines and civilian neighbors, the Aviation Plan fails to provide any details for how the Marine Corps will divest SAR and ensure that SAR capabilities are not negatively impacted.
  • The Aviation Plan states that the US Coast Guard will take responsibility for SAR for Eastern North Carolina, but fails to explain how that transition will occur. As recently as late 2014, the US Coast Guard was planning on closing Air Facility Charleston, SC in an effort to save money. There is no guarantee that the US Coast Guard has the infrastructure or man-power necessary to assume responsibility for Eastern North Carolina SAR operations.
  • If the US Coast Guard was to assume the SAR mission for Eastern North Carolina, the air assets would have to be located outside of the operational training areas for MCAS Cherry Point, and MCB Camp Lejeune. This would result in lengthened response times during critical emergencies, not only for the Marines but also for any Air Force units that Pedro supports in times of emergency.