Begich Provision Ensures F16s Won’t Relocate from Eielson in 2013
Final Passage of National Defense Authorization Act for FY13Reaffirms Hold on Move Talks
With the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 today, a hold on the move of the F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks has been reaffirmed.
“In June, Air Force leadership made a commitment to me to halt the move of F16s from Eielson in Fiscal Year 2013 because they hadn’t done their homework on the proposal. The bill endorses the hold. Each time we head off another wrong-headed attempt to move the F-16s out of Fairbanks, we get a little closer to defeating the idea altogether,” said Sen. Mark Begich. “Today’s final passage is great news for Eielson and all Alaskans.”
The bill also includes language to prevent so-called “backdoor BRACs,” or Base Realignment and Closures. The term was coined to describe incremental reductions in force size that would set a base up for closure once its overall size fell under a defined threshold. Both Begich and Rep. Don Young included language in the Senate and House versions of the bill to prevent such maneuvers – another move that shores up the future of Eielson.
Friday’s final passage of the bill means more than a billion dollars for personnel and infrastructure will flow to Alaska, where one in six residents is connected to the military.
“Military spending in Alaska is an essential part of our economic foundation,” Begich said. “Many Alaskans don’t realize how much it matters, but every loaf of bread, every gallon of gas is that much less expensive thanks to the presence of the military in our state. We all benefit tremendously.”
Begich is Alaska’s sole member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the first Alaskan to serve on the committee since 1968. His position allowed him to secure a number of valuable provisions for Alaska, including:
- Full funding for Ground-based Midcourse Defense, an intercontinental ballistic missile defense program out of Fort Greely, near Delta. The budgeted amount for FY13 is $903.172 million.
- Full funding for upgrading Clear Air Force Station’s radar program aimed at detection of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles at a value of approximately $92 million in FY13.
- $18.3 million for construction of two ranges – one at Fort Wainwright and one at JBER – to provide marksmanship training for soldiers.
- A 1.7 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services.
- The bill also prevents the Department of Defense from establishing enrollment fees or increasing deductibles for enrollees in TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life, the military’s health insurance program.
While supporting Alaska’s military infrastructure through targeted spending, the bill also saves money: It prohibits almost $400 million in funds from being spent on a program Begich has decried as a prime example of government waste, the Medium Extended Air Defense System. The Department of Defense already made clear it had no intention of buying the program, so the expenditure would have been a waste.
Additionally, Begich was successful in securing authorization for a Gold Star Mothers memorial to be built in Washington D.C. to commemorate the sacrifices made by mothers, and made by their sons and daughters as members of the Armed Forces.
The conference committee also adopted a provision authored by Begich to expand space-available travel on military aircraft for National Guard and Reserve members and their families. In November Begich greeted Alaska National Army Guardsmen as they returned from Afghanistan. “Our National Guard and Reserve members and their families deserve additional benefits in recognition of their service and sacrifice.”
The bill passed by a vote of 81 to 14. It will be sent to the President for signature.