Begich on the F35s: “Location, Location, Location”
Holds DOD Accountable on Basing Decision Timeline
With two Alaska locations among those being considered for stationing the F35s, the next generation of fighter plane, U.S. Senator Mark Begich today continued to press the Air Force to reach a decision soon—and to choose Alaska.
“When it comes to our nation’s air defense it’s all about location, location, location and Alaska has the most strategic spot in the whole country,” said Begich. “With our unrivaled airspace and access to the Pacific theater, Alaska is the perfect spot to house the F35s. Today’s hearing confirmed that we should receive a final decision within the next month or two.”
Begich pushed the issue today during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans hearing, requesting specific details as to how the Department of Defense will reach their decision. Both Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks and Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson are candidates to house the jets.
“Alaska is key to protecting our national security and I have fought hard alongside members of the TIGER team and Fairbanks community show Alaska’s strategic advantage as base for the F35s,” said Begich. “There is no better candidate than Alaska as a home for those jets and I will work hard to make sure the Air Force reaches that conclusion.”
Nine bases in the Pacific, including those in Guam, Japan and Korea, initially were eligible to become official candidates. An Air Force site survey team visited Eielson and JBER in coming weeks to further evaluate its potential for hosting the F35s. After completion of the site surveys of the five eligible installations, the Air Force will select two or three as “preferred and reasonable alternative bases” to undergo a more extensive study for a final stationing decision in 2016.
Begich has worked closely with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Rep. Don Young and the Interior community to especially advance Eielson Air Force base, making certain the F16s remain in Fairbanks and the base remains viable to host next generation platforms.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Begich was successful in providing full funding for the F35 procurement and testing program—further advancing Eielson as a potential candidate to house the jets.
Begich also took the opportunity at the hearing today to emphasize the harm that cuts to commissary subsidies would have on Alaska families, increasing the out of pocket costs for families. Begich pointed out that too many Alaska military families are already living below the poverty line, with J-BER accepting more food stamp payments than any other commissary in the nation.
Begich is also a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.