Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., will close its main gate to most visitors starting next week to bring the base in line with security directives issued by the secretary of the Navy, Commanding Officer Capt. Keith Hoskins announced Monday.
The change in access at the air station, which Hoskins said would be permanent, will force unescorted visitors who do not possess DOD identification or a visitor’s pass to use the base’s west gate. For visitors to three public attractions on the base — the National Naval Aviation Museum, Fort Barrancas and Pensacola Lighthouse — the new policy will require an eight-mile detour around the air station, reported the Pulse. Visitors to Barrancas National Cemetery, however, still will be able to use the main gate.
“The safety and security of everyone who works, lives or visits NAS Pensacola is my priority,” Hoskins said. “This change will bring the installation in alignment with security directives issued by the Secretary of the Navy and are not in response to any specific threat,” he said.
The change is not expected to affect access to open-base events such as the annual Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show, reported the Pensacola News Journal.
The policy also does not appear to be related to one announced by DOD earlier this month affecting visitors with driver’s licenses from states that have not implemented measures mandated by the REAL ID Act.
The new restriction at Pensacola could deter some visitors from coming to the National Naval Aviation Museum, according to museum director Sterling Gilliam.
“The lifeblood of a museum is our visitors and our patrons,” Gilliam said, reported the Pulse. “Anything that impacts that is of concern to us. We’ve had extensive discussions and we feel the plan that the base put in place is the best way forward given the security concerns throughout the Department of Defense.”
Hoskins emphasized that officials considered the needs of visitors in developing the new policy.
“We can’t speculate on what impact this is going to have in terms of tourism onboard NAS Pensacola or the Pensacola area,” Hoskins said. “But I can tell you throughout the process we partnered with all the stakeholders to ensure this was done in the most efficient manner to ensure that we have those folks that want to visit our public attractions that they have that opportunity,” he said.