Murkowski Responds to Pentagon’s Decision Delaying Proposed F-16 Move

“Make Today’s Victory a Permanent One for Alaska and the Nation’s Defense”

Senator Lisa Murkowski had the following response to the news surrounding the proposal to move the F-16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base:

“Along with many Alaskans, I am pleased to learn that the Pentagon is delaying the decision to move the F-16 Aggressors from Eielson Air Force Base to J-BER.  But while today’s announcement provides us with breathing room, we need to use this time and opportunity to make today’s victory a permanent one for Alaska and the nation’s defense.

“On February 3rd, the Air Force announced plans to relocate the F-16 Aggressor Squadron.  On that day, I said there was no chance this plan could save the money they claimed.  Last month, the Air Force admitted it would cost money, not save money in the first year – it was going to cost over 5 million dollars.  I don’t think that saving money should cost so much.

“Back in January, the Secretary of Defense announced the Pentagon was going to shift its focus to a primarily Asia-Pacific direction – a region that Alaska is in a prime tactical location to be engaged in.  This made the Eielson announcement even more questionable.

“Since February 3rd, I have spoken directly to many Fairbanksans – sharing my concerns and hearing their objections as together we built a case.  I raised this personally with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Raymond Odierno and enough military, state and local officials to fill the Carlson Center.

“My point was simple: You are undercutting your new Asia-Pacific strategic focus by proposing this.  If you are serious about this plan, you need to do your homework.  Alaskans and Fairbanksans know that the math doesn’t add up.  It could detract from the 168th refueling unit’s capabilities.  It could have negative impacts on the Army’s training ranges.  And it could absolutely wreak havoc in the two housing markets that are involved – with the unforeseen costs mounting on the backs of our military personnel.

“Once I saw the Air Force’s site survey report, it confirmed all of those concerns – and even added more.  I told them the Air Force needed to go find a drawing board to go back to.  When Secretary of Defense Panetta came before me in the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I asked him point-blank why he wouldn’t just abandon this plan altogether.  And General Dempsey, who was sitting beside him, committed to me that he would get personally involved.

“I think today’s news is vindicating in that we’ve all been heard.  The Pentagon knows there are flaws in its reasoning.  They see that they need to listen to Congress on this.  And they see the wisdom and resolve of Alaska’s military community statewide.”