Senate Passes Amendment Which Would Delay Plan to Move F-16s
Three F-16 Fighting Falcons fly in formation over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Courtesy: USAF
FAIRBANKS — The U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the military’s budget Friday afternoon which would delay by another year the Air Force’s cost-cutting structure change plan, which includes a proposal to move Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16s to Anchorage.
Introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the amendment would push the plan back to mid-2014, the earliest date the Air Force could take actions on the F-16 move along with plans to retire or move hundreds of aircraft at dozens of bases around the world.
Murkowski, who has criticized the Air Force’s judgment and the premise that it would save money since the F-16 move was announced in February, offered the amendment during an 18-minute speech on the Senate floor.
“I am left to conclude that there’s just someone at the Air Force who for whatever reason just doesn’t like Eielson,” she said. “I reach this conclusion with some hesitation and reluctance but when I see the Air Force prepared to sacrifice a base with one of the longest runways in North America ... no encroachments (and) geographic superiority with respect to missions in the Pacific and across the globe, it really does cause me to wonder.”
The Senate is expected to vote on the entire 2013 Senate Defense Authorization bill, which includes the new amendment, next week by Senate. To become law, Murkowki’s amendment would have to survive a conference committee with the House of Representative’s version of the military budget.
In her speech, Murkowski also said the Air Force has been vague in responding to questions from Congress about the F-16 squadron. She suggested, although she didn’t formally propose, an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to respond more quickly to requests for documents.
Also on Friday, Murkowski and the other two members of Alaska Congressional delegation wrote a letter asking the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff to conduct more meetings about the F-16 move.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Sam Friedman at 907-459-7545.