Congress Passes Military Budget with Amendments to Protect Eielson
Three F-16 Fighting Falcons fly in formation over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Courtesy: USAF
FAIRBANKS — Both the U.S. House and Senate passed their final versions of the $640.2 billion military budget for 2013 this week and with it a few amendments added by Alaska’s congressional delegation designed to protect Eielson Air Force Base from the Pentagon’s attempts to reduce its military and civilian staff.
Included in the final version of the bill, which next goes to the White House, was an amendment proposed by both Republican Rep. Don Young and Democratic Sen. Mark Begich that promises to close the door to so-called “back-door BRACS.” In other words, it puts major personnel changes at military bases under the same level of scrutiny as the process used for closing military bases.
All three members of Alaska’s congressional delegation have been fighting the Air Force’s attempts to move Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16 fighter plane squadron to Anchorage since the Air Force announced the transfer in February.
While the Air Force leadership said the F-16 transfer would save money by cutting the total number of jobs, the Alaska delegation has argued it would flood the housing market in Anchorage and would not necessarily save money.
The final 2013 military budget bill included language introduced by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski designed to delay the F-16 transfer while a congressional committee analyzes the Air Force’s proposal. The committee previously had a April 2013 deadline to complete its report. Murkowski introduced an amendment to push back the deadline to April 2014. In the final version of the bill, the date of Feb. 1, 2014 won out, Murkowski spokesman Matthew Felling said.
Also of note for Alaska in the budget is a 1.7 percent pay raise for all members of the uniformed services, full funding ($900 million) for the Ground-based Midcourse (missile) Defense at Fort Greely near Delta Junction, $92 million for radar upgrades at Clear Air Force Station and $18.3 million for new marksmanship training ranges at Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, according to the congressional delegation.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Sam Friedman at 907-459-7545.