Murkowski: Eielson Strategic Pause Applies to Environmental Assessment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski sat down with U.S. Air Force General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle – the newly-installed Commander of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) – today to stress her belief that the “strategic pause” on the relocation of the F-16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base and all military structure movements requires that the Air Force defer a Natural Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluation of the move for at least one year.
After an exchange of letters between the two in recent weeks, Carlisle committed to Murkowski during their meeting that he will give the issue a second look when he returns to PACAF Headquarters in Hawaii.
In his most recent letter to Senator Murkowski, General Carlisle said he did not believe that the NEPA review was necessarily “a precursor” that would indicate the imminence of an F-16 move.
Murkowski explained that NEPA work carries significant legal weight and that the U.S. Air Force should not start the process unless the relocation moves forward. She added that the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee – on which she sits – has banned the Air Force from proceeding with its Eielson plans until a newly-created Commission on the Status of the Air Force has reported on it. That Commission is not expected to create a report until 2014.
If the Air Force does not stop the NEPA process, Murkowski pledged to work with the Fairbanks community in making the case for a complete Environmental Impact Study – with full public involvement – beyond the environmental assessment, which is mostly conducted behind closed doors.
Coming out of the meeting, Senator Murkowski felt optimistic about how it went. “When I sat down with General Carlisle today and spoke with him, I saw a man who has served for years in Alaska, realizes our worth and global importance – and, most importantly, an ally of Alaska,” said Murkowski.
Senator Murkowski and General Carlisle also discussed the Pentagon’s recently-announced Asia-Pacific focus, with Carlisle telling her that Alaska, Guam and Hawaii represent a new “Strategic Triangle” in the region. He also informed her that Anchorage-based Lieutenant General Stephen L. Hoog has taken on significant new responsibilities in Hawaii and Guam as part of this designation and will command 13,000 airmen among the three location.