Fairbanks, AK - The Air Force’s proposal to relocate a squadron of F-16s from Eielson Air Force base south to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson has been scrapped. Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation received the news midday Wednesday.
Alaska’s congressional delegation met via teleconference with Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning. Senator Lisa Murkowski says during the meeting, Secretary Fanning told her estimated cost savings associated with the relocation “didn’t pencil out.” “They had gained new information in recognizing that the savings that would be achieved simply did not materialize," she says. "That not only was there going to be a savings but that there was going to be a cost.” Murkowski was joined by Senator Mark Begich and Congressman Don Young to announce the Air Force’s decision. Senator Begich calls it “good news.” But he says the delegation should continue to focus on the future. “Now that we’ve kind of won this battle," says Begich, "we have to win the war and that is F-35s, the Gray Eagles, other missions that we can apply to Eielson.” Senator Murkowski says nothing is guaranteed, but she says Alaska has things going for it that other locations don’t. “We’ve got better training grounds in Alaska than anywhere else in the country," says Senator Murkowski. "The other thing we know for sure, we’re always going to sit in the same place on the globe, so when you want to figure out how close we are to Europe or North Korea or any place else, we have a strategic advantage. Now, that’s a constant.” Both Senators joined Congressman Don Young to add that the Air Force’s decision doesn’t mean Alaska won’t face similar situations in the future. “Never let your guard down," warned Young. “But we know who to call” adds Murkowski. Senator Begich also chimed in. “We know some tactics now,” he laughed. “We’re ready,” says Murkowski. The three says the announcement is welcome amid tight budgets, sequestration and the current government shutdown.