Relocating F-16 Squadron akin to BRAC Closure, Alaska Lawmakers Insist
Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) on Tuesday criticized the Air Force’s proposal to relocate a squadron of F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base outside of the formal base closure process, stating that BRAC is recognized as the best way to address property management and readiness.
If the Air Force intends to use the permanent statute for closing bases outside of a BRAC round, 10 U.S.C. 2687, to carry out the realignment, DOD must notify lawmakers so they can review the proposed action, they stated in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
“Non-compliance with this statute is alarming and sets a dangerous precedent for installations to be closed or realigned without providing required justification such as cost, real savings, impact and alternatives,” the two senators wrote.
“We are concerned more than fifty percent of the workforce may be negatively impacted by the proposal, thereby requiring additional details to have been submitted with the announcement of the F16 relocation,” according to their letter.
The Air Force announced the proposed realignment — which would move Eielson’s 18th Aggressor Squadron in Fairbanks to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage — Friday as part of a comprehensive set of force structure changes. The squadron, made up of 21 F-16s, is the main active duty force at the North Pole-area installation, which also houses an Alaska Air National Guard air refueling unit and hosts about six Red Flag Alaska training exercises each year.
On Monday the senators introduced legislation to bar the Air Force from moving the F-16s.
Murkowski and Begich also point out that nothing has changed since a similar proposal was rejected in 2005 by the BRAC Commission.
“After an extensive site survey, the commission determined the Air Force’s estimated cost savings derived by relocating the F-16 squadron were overstated by approximately $1 billion. Further, the commission found relocating the F-16 squadron and placing Eielson AFB in ‘warm status’ would leave the largest and greatest airspace and range complex in the U.S. drastically underutilized,” the letter states.
And in light of the Pentagon’s announcement that it intends to request permission from Congress to conduct a new BRAC round, the proposal “appears contrary to your guidance,” they said.