Three F-16 Fighting Falcons fly in formation over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex. Photo courtesy: USAF
FAIRBANKS — “America Needs Eielson.” First it was a T-shirt, now U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski wants to make it a law.
The “America Needs Eielson Act of 2013” Murkowski introduced Thursday would add to and consolidate existing legislation designed to keep Eielson’s F-16 Aggressor squadron in the Interior.
“America needs Eielson, plain and simple,” Murkowski stated in a news release announcing the bill. “It’s common-sense to Alaskans, and it’s what the buttons and T-shirts read that we wore in 2005 when the Pentagon’s BRAC Committee considered and rejected a plan incredibly similar to the one the Air Force is considering now — by using the same faulty reasoning rejected by the 2005 BRAC.”
Much like in 2005, there’s been a “save Eielson” campaign going on since the Air Force announced last February it would move the 21-plane squadron and about half the base’s jobs to Anchorage as a cost-cutting measure. Losing the F-16 squadron would not immediately close the base, but local leaders worry it would hurt the local economy and make it easier to close the base in the future.
Murkowski’s bill would make it harder for the Air Force to transfer the aircraft to Anchorage by requiring the Air Force to have a series of documents before any planes can be moved. In addition to an environmental report the Air Force is working on and a congressional report due in spring 2014, the Pentagon would have to write a report on the strategic importance of Eielson Air Force Base.
Alaska’s other senator, Mark Begich, told the News-Miner on Friday he plans to co-sponsor the bill. However, he questioned whether legislation that specifically addresses Eielson will do well in the Senate.
He said he favors legislation created with other senators facing similar problems with their military bases.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Sam Friedman at 907-459-7545.