Senator Murkowski Questions Air Force’s Actions About Eielson AFB
Accuses Air Force of working to break plan to delay moving F-16s
Three F-16 Fighting Falcons fly in formation over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Photo Credit: Courtesy: USAF
FAIRBANKS — Alaska's senior U.S. Senator accused the Air Force Wednesday of taking steps to break the service's commitment to delay for one year any plan to move Eielson's F-16s out of the Interior.
In a letter sent to new Pacific Air Force Commander Gen. Herbert Carlisle, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said a U.S. Air Force contractor has been discussing plans to do an environmental assessment required for the F-16 transfer.
“I write today to express my concern about some disturbing news suggesting that contrary to commitments that senior leaders have made to the Alaska congressional delegation and congressional defense committees, the Air Force continues to move forward with plans to downsize Eielson Air Force Base,” she wrote.
Specifically, Murkowski said a team leader with contractor SAIC, Inc. said last week that the contractor will begin “preparatory work in anticipation” of an environmental assessment the Air Force would need to move the F-16s to Anchorage.
A spokesman for the Air Force command that was working on the F-16 transfer did not immediately return an e-mail requesting comment for this story. However, a letter U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz sent in June announcing the one year delay mentions plans for both this environmental assessment and a housing study.
Murkowski spokesman Matt Felling said the environmental assessment may be a sign the Air Force plans to move the F-16s, because it’s one of the steps required for the transfer.
“The environmental assessment was not a condition to move forward it was a component of moving forward,” he said. “It was part and parcel with the plan.”
The Air Force proposed the F-16 move among budget cuts known as the Force Structure Change proposed in February as a way to fulfill a mandate from Congress to reduce the service’s costs. The Air Force said moving the F-16s to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson would save money by letting the Air Force cut duplicate jobs now done in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Alaska’s Congressional delegation objected to the Air Force’s plan, arguing it would not really save the Air Force money and would harm Fairbanks’ economy.
In June the Air Force announced it would delay the F-16 move for one year while the Air Force studied the move.
In addition to securing the delay from top military leaders, Alaska’s delegation have supported language in next year’s military budgets that specifically blocks the Air Force from making any of the Force Structure Change cuts. The budget has not yet been signed into law.