During a recent U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on the “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request,” U.S. Navy Sec. Carlos Del Toro committed to taking further action to allow access for the public to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola once again in response to questioning from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla..
Del Toro confirmed to Gaetz that the Department of the Navy is focused and actively working on near-term and long-term solutions to maximize public access to the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Since December 2019, when a Saudi Arabian terrorist shot and killed three U.S. Navy sailors at NAS Pensacola, the National Naval Aviation Museum has been closed to the public, which was previously always available for public admission.
A brief transcript of Gaetz’s line of inquiry to Del Toro is also below.
Rep. Gaetz: If we can have leadership and focus from your office and others, and we could get hundreds of thousands of people back onto the base and museum, it’s not going to solve all of our recruiting challenges, but it’s one more spark that we can have out there getting folks excited in a positive productive way. Will you work with me on that so I can get better access to this great gym?
Secretary Del Toro: Congressman, I’ve been working with you, your staff, local politicians, and the leadership of that museum actually to try to get the throughput through that museum open as quickly as possible. We’ve come up with some near term solutions, but we’re also focused on finding the long term solutions that actually bring it back to maximum throughput for that museum for all the reasons that you just stated because it is an extraordinary museum.
Rep. Gaetz: Where I at times struggle with folks is seeing the museum not just as a morale and welfare tool, but as a recruiting tool. Do you see it as a recruiting tool?
Secretary Del Toro: I absolutely see it as a recruiting tool. I saw it from the first day that I stepped in it. We have actually been very energized, and we’ve come up with some near-term solutions to increase the throughput that already paid off dividends, but we’re also looking at the long term solutions that are a little bit more costly to be able to provide a direct access to the outside world without having to have folks come in through the base itself.
Rep. Gaetz: Well, thank you for casting in that lens because if it’s a matter of dollars and cents, and I have to ask my colleagues to support such an endeavor in the NDAA, I’ll certainly cite your testimony that this isn’t just a museum for the sake of recreation, but it is a way to engage people in naval aviation in a place that’s the home of the Blue Angels – the cradle of naval aviation
Secretary Del Toro: Absolutely, sir.
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