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JASC Co-Chairs Laud Air Force Eielson Decision

Saddler, Kelly credit cooperation for reversing F-16 move

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - The co-chairs of the Alaska Legislature’s Joint Armed Services Committee received word today from Alaska’s top military commanders that the Air Force had reversed its plans to move a squadron of F-16 fighter jets from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER).

Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, and Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, received the good news during a teleconference this afternoon with Lt. Gen Russ Handy, commander of JBER, and Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Eielson, that the Air Force had decided against plans to transfer the 18th Aggressor Squadron’s F-16s and associated personnel south, and put Eielson on a diminished, “warm base” status.

“It is gratifying that Alaskans succeeded by working together to present a strong case for the strategic, long-term benefits of maintaining the F-16s at Eielson,” said Saddler.  “JASC’s mission is to advocate for Alaska’s military missions, and we’ve been working it hard along with other legislative and local authorities.  I’m tremendously pleased with the Air Force’s recognition that, instead of reducing their Alaska presence, they are considering new ways to build up Alaska’s ability to ensure our national security.”

“The process to get to this point was a tough one, but I feel like the kid who got his first kiss at the prom from the prettiest girl in school,” said Kelly.  “If you ask him about the prom he probably won’t remember much, but he’ll remember the kiss forever.  I think that’s how Fairbanks feels right now.  All the things we went through to make this happen will fade from memory.  But we’ll remember one thing for a long time – the F-16s are staying.  Next dance: the F-35s.”

Handy said the reversal was based on several factors, including the nation’s strategic pivot toward the Pacific, recalculating the move’s costs compared to its potential savings, the attractiveness of Interior Alaska’s Joint Pacific-Alaska Range Complex air combat training range, and Eielson’s long-range strategic potential, including possibly hosting the new F-35 fighters now rolling off assembly lines.  The Air Force will soon announce its criteria for deciding where the next generation of the joint air superiority fighter jets will be based as they become operational.

“The secretary has decided that the Aggressors will remain in Eielson,” said Handy.  “We determined it was in the best interest of Alaska to retain them there.  This is good news for the Air Force and for Alaska, and allows us to move forward on all initiatives and toward a bright future for Alaska.”

Handy credited the efforts of the Joint Armed Services Committee and other state, federal and local officials in making the case for retaining Eielson, in public hearings, in written comments and in public advocacy efforts.

Comprised of five state representatives, five state senators and six public members, the JASC is a joint committee charged with advocating on behalf of Alaska’s current military facilities and missions, and for advocating in favor of expanding the military’s presence in the state in the future.

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