In his first speech to Congress Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced his intention to grow the military. That’s welcome news for Alaska lawmakers, who know it could mean dollar signs for the state.


“I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester,” announced Trump during his speech Tuesday.


Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski applauded the move because she believes sequestration-era funding cuts have been felt here at home, like at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.


“Flying hours at JBER that are practically eliminated or the Red Flag training exercises cancelled on short notice,” are the examples she gave of how the cuts have hurt readiness.


Murkowski thinks Congress is ready to work with the president to overturn the 2011 legislation that put the funding caps in place. Sen. Dan Sullivan echoed her support, calling Trump’s speech very strong.


“A strong shout-out to our veterans, rebuilding our military which I believe we need after eight years of military cuts and which will be very good for Alaska,” Sullivan said.


It could also be good news for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at JBER, which the U.S. Army announced it was cutting in July 2015. The cuts were then put on hold. Murkowski expects a decision on whether to keep the 4,000-member brigade intact very soon.


“It’s a recognition that strong military is important for us in the state of Alaska, but it’s critically important for our nation and our national security,” she said.


The president also changed his tone on another big military project coming to Alaska. He described the F-35 fighter jet as “fantastic,” a relief for those worried Trump would cancel the squadrons planned for Eielson Air Force Base. The president called the F-35’s cost “out of control” in a tweet last December.




“I think it was a very good sign that he used the word “fantastic” last night when referring to our F-35s,” Murkowski said.


The F-35s alone are expected to bring $450 million and 2,300 jobs to the Interior. Murkowski and Sullivan know those dollar signs could keep going up if the president sticks to his plan to grow the military.


KTVA 11’s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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