Begich Proposes One-Year Hold on Eielson Changes
FAIRBANKS - An amendment by Senator Mark Begich to a military spending bill would delay any personnel changes at Eielson Air Force Base and other bases across the country for one year.
Begich (D-Alaska), a member of Senate Armed Services Committee, announced a change to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that would put a hold on any action that would reduce the number of civilian personnel to less than 300, a level where the Pentagon could avoid the traditional base-closure process as well as congressional oversight.
The committee approved the defense legislation Thursday.
The Air Force has proposed to relocate Eielson’s F-16 squadron to Anchorage in a slew of budget-cutting measures. Opponents call the proposed move a “backdoor BRAC” that could make Eielson easier to close at a later date.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission — BRAC — process was last used in 2005 and led to numerous reductions across the country.
The 2005 base closure commission had authority to alter Defense Department recommendations with the final list being subject only to an up-or-down vote by Congress. The commission rejected the Defense Department’s recommendation to move all aircraft and personnel out of Eielson, instead allowing only the transfer of the base’s A-10 squadron. The F-16s were allowed to remain.
Opponents of the new plan to move the F-16s say the Air Force hasn’t proved the savings will occur.
“I hold fast to my belief those cost-savings will not ultimately add up, and the F-16s will stay put just like they did when a similar proposal was considered and rejected in 2005,” Begich said in a news release. “This bill clearly expresses the intent of the Senate to reject a BRAC without BRAC authorization.”
The bill would also calls on the General Accounting Office to develop objective criteria for future base realignment actions. The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act still needs to go to the Senate floor for a vote and back to the House to sign off on the changes. The House last week approved its version of the Defense Authorization Act, which included an amendment by Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), giving Congress additional authority over current and future large force reductions.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Matt Buxton at 907-459-7544.