Defense group hears soothing words

defense carroll

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll speaks to the Florida Defense Task Force on Wednesday at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel on Okaloosa Island.

DEVON RAVINE | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 11:23 AM.

OKALOOSA ISLAND — Brig. Gen. Arnold Bunch told members of the Florida Defense Support Task Force on Wednesday he is striving to keep RDT&E at Eglin Air Force Base “flyable and viable.”

The words resonate because Bunch, as head of the Air Force Flight Test Center at California’s Edwards Air Force Base, has the muscle to greatly influence decisions regarding the fate of Eglin’s 96th Test Wing.

Members of the task force, local leaders and military-reliant businesses have worried greatly since early this year that the test wing and its valuable research, development, testing and evaluation functions would be moved to Edwards.

That’s when the Air Force Materiel Command announced its intention to cut its command centers from 12 to five and to put what was then the 46th Test Wing under the command of a two-star at Edwards.

The consolidation was accomplished in July. Bunch said he has visited Eglin twice since then.

“I know we made people a little uptight about how that was done,” he said of the consolidation. “But my focus is not Edwards. I’m equally focused on Eglin and Arnold and bases across the Air Force Materiel Command.”

Jim Breitenfeld, a member of the Okaloosa County’s Defense Support Initiative that works with the task force, said Bunch’s words offered him some degree of relief about the test wing’s future.

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