Murkowski Works to Fund Military Projects in Interior Alaska

Following Monday’s announcement that Eielson Air Force Base will host two squadrons of F-35s arriving in 2020, the Senate Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee took the first step towards considering the administration’s request for $561 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to support crucial defense projects in Alaska. A little over half of that request is allocated to support the F-35 beddown.

As a member of that subcommittee, Senator Murkowski questioned military officials on two budget requests specific to Alaska—$295 million allocated to prepare for the beddown of 54 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters at Eielson AFB and $47 million to construct a hangar to house the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Fort Wainwright.

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Senator Murkowski directed her first question to Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Miranda Ballentine, asking:

“Would you first speak to the importance of this week’s decision and explain why it is essential that this subcommittee fully appropriate the administration’s request in the 2017 bill and how any possible delay in appropriations will adversely affect the beddown [of two squadrons of F-35s] there at Eielson?”

Assistant Secretary Ballentine responded that it is “absolutely critical” that the funding be fully appropriated this year, especially given the limited construction season in Interior Alaska:

“This is a very short, straight-forward answer: it’s absolutely critical that the full FY17 MilCon program that we submitted is funded this year. With the current timing of the beddown of the first aircraft, for both squadron one and squadron two, if we do not fully fund this MilCon program, we will be late to the need. In an environment like Alaska, with harsh winter conditions, it’s very difficult for us to create mitigations if we don’t have the proper facilities. It’s absolutely critical with this current timing, that we get all of this program funded for both squadrons.”

Murkowski then questioned Assistant Secretary of the Army Katherine Hammack on the importance of timing in regards to fully funding construction projects related to the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Fort Wainwright, to which she echoed Secretary Ballentine’s comments, that it was “critical” for the military to receive the money.

Earlier in the hearing, Chairman Mark Kirk (R-IL) questioned Peter Potochney, representing the Office of the Secretary of Defense, on allocating $155 million for the Long Range Discrimination Radar at Clear Air Station in Alaska. Potochney responded that the funding is important and that the Department of Defense is “strongly behind it.” Murkowski met later in the day with Missile Defense Agency Director, Vice Admiral James Syring, to discuss the request.

Related Issues: Defense