Begich May Allow Air Force Lieutenant General's Promotion After Upcoming F-16 Move Report
FAIRBANKS — U.S. Senator Mark Begich says he will lift a hold on the promotion of Air Force lieutenant general if a report due out this week provides adequate information on a planned relocation of Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16 squadron.
Begich, who talked about Eielson after speaking at Memorial Day celebrations in Fairbanks, said he’s optimistic that the report will provide a detailed cost analysis of the move, clearing up months of unanswered questions.
The Air Force announced the move as a cost-cutting measure, but has given differing estimates of what it might save, Begich said. The branch sent a team to analyze the move in early April and is expected to release its findings this week.
“I was sick and tired for hearing reasons why they couldn’t get it and the vagueness of the report,” he said. “If they give me the numbers we’re looking for then we’ll go ahead and let the general move forward on his promotion, because that’s what we were looking for.”
If the report is unsatisfactory, Begich said he’ll keep up with the pressure.
“If it’s not defined as we’re hopeful of, the general’s hold will stay in place,” he said.
But when asked if he would drop his opposition to the move if the report shows savings, Begich said he’ll still be skeptical. He said he’s heard a wide range of numbers for the move, ranging from a few million dollars of savings in the first year, to more than 10 million dollars in extra costs.
“I think they’re going to have a hard time to prove those savings,” he said.
But he said if he can’t stop the move, he said wants to ensure that its impact on the Air Force’s budget, as well as the local community, is kept to a minimum.
“The target will be two-fold, lessen the impact or no impact,” he said. “Right now it’s hard to say until we see the numbers.”
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Matt Buxton at 907-459-7544.