F-16 move from Eielson on hold
The U.S. Air Force is holding its proposed action to transfer the F-16 squadron from Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The Secretary of Defense has directed that the Air Force not take action until Congress has completed action on the fiscal year 2013 authorization and appropriations bills.
This was especially good news for Sen. Mark Begich, who is on the Armed Services Committee and has been leading the charge against the move. Begich has stated that the Air Force has not been transparent about how the move would save costs.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz sent Begich a letter today that confirms the decision. In the letter, Schwartz states that the Secretary recognized that the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee-reported versions of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act would reject or defer the squadron transfer.
In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, a housing study will be completed before a final decision is made about the proposed transfer. Begich has said that Anchorage’s capacity to house the personnel is a real issue.
Begich has led numerous efforts to halt the transfer, including introducing legislation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski to bar the transfer, authoring legislation to put a one-year moratorium on the move and holding up the promotion of a three-star general. Begich said he will now release the hold for Lt. Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle.
“This is some of the best news I’ve had the chance to deliver to Alaskans: that the Air Force has recognized its proposal to move the 18th Aggressor Squadron was not well-vetted and analyzed, and that there is certainly no support in Congress for such action,” Begich said in a release. “Eielson plays a vital role in the nation’s defense and I’m committed to defending that role.”
Begcih said downsizing Eielson will adversely affect the Pacific rim presence as part of the military’s global strategy.
“I believe Air Force officials have recognized they have not completed their homework for such a major move,” Begich said. “And they have hit continual roadblocks in Congress as multiple communities have faced this type of restructuring. I continue to believe moving the F-16s from Eielson is a misguided idea, and I’m thrilled the Air Force is backing off this bad idea until we pass defense bills.”