Alaska Senator Begich May Hold Up Air Force Chief of Staff's Promotion to Stall F-16 Move
FAIRBANKS — U.S. Senator Mark Begich may extend his hold on a military advancement to the Air Force’s top uniformed officer because of frustration with the service’s plan to move a squadron of F-16 fighter planes from Eielson Air Force Base.
For more than a month, Begich has already held up the advancement of Lt. Gen. Herbert J. Carlisle, who is up for promotion to four-star general.
According to his spokesman Julie Hasquet, the Democratic senator is now considering putting a hold on the advancement of Gen. Mark A. Welsh, President Obama’s candidate to be the next Air Force chief of staff. Any senator can put a hold on a military advancement, which halts the nomination until the hold is lifted.
Putting a hold on the military leaders is one of several strategies Alaska’s congressional delegation is using to stall or stop the movement of the F-16s and more than 1,500 Air Force and civilian jobs from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
Another approach uses congressional control of the military’s purse strings. In a joint letter sent Wednesday to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel, both Begich and Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski ask for language in the 2013 budget ordering the Air Force not to spend money to move the F-16s.
The Air Force announced the move in February as part of a larger plan to cut expenses across the service.
Alaska’s congressional delegation has been skeptical and demanded Air Force explain exactly how the move would save money. The Air Force argues the plan will save money by eliminating the need for 81 duplicate possessions at Alaska air bases.
Some of the Air Force’s numbers came out last week in a 46-page report. In that report, the Air Force said keeping the F-16s in Anchorage would save $227 million over five years but would cost $5.65 million in the first year because of moving and construction costs.
Alaska’s congressional delegation questioned the thoroughness of the report, arguing it overlooked the cost of providing housing for airmen in Anchorage and of creating a report on the environmental effects of basing the F-16s in Anchorage. Representatives of the congressional delegation and a group of local business and government leaders known as the Tiger Team spent two hours questioning the Air Force general who created the report last week and are planning to hold another teleconference this morning.
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