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Associated Press Newswires

Navy Plans To Improve Training Sites In Florida, Other States

March 12, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Associated Press Newswires. All Rights Reserved.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - The Navy, which is giving up a training site in Puerto Rico , plans to spend $158 million to improve alternate facilities in Florida and other Atlantic and Gulf coast states over the next two years.

Navy officials have proposed that Eglin Air Force Base, which sprawls over 724 square miles of the Florida Panhandle, and an in-water range off Andros Island in the Bahamas be used for training aircraft carrier battle groups and amphibious and Marine Corps units between deployments.

The plan was outlined in a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., from Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Nelson's office disclosed the letter Monday.

Florida installations that would benefit are Eglin, Pensacola Naval Air Station and Tyndall Air Force Base in the Panhandle; Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville; Key West Naval Air Facility; Avon Park Air Force Station in central Florida; and the Pinecastle Bombing Range in the Ocala National Forest, said Dan McLaughlin, Nelson's deputy chief of staff.

The training, including live gunfire and bomb drops, had been done on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico . Protests against the training there led the Navy to stop using live munitions. President Bush also has promised all training will end at Vieques in 2003.

The Navy in the past couple years has moved some training, including live bomb drops, to Florida while operations were suspended or reducedat Vieques .

Natter wrote that plans call for spending $38 million during the 2002 fiscal year and $120 million the following year on the training sites in Florida and other states.

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