U.S. Senator Mark Begich challenged today’s release of the Eielson Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which finds the preferred alternative is relocation of the F-16 Aggressor Squadron and “downsizing” of Eielson based upon an assumption of cost-savings.
“Some pencil-pusher in the Pentagon cooked up the idea of ‘warming’ Eielson based on phantom cost-savings,” said Begich. “Alaskans should be aware that Eielson EIS is not a decision document and the Air Force leadership is undertaking the reviews I demanded. I will continue to engage Air Force leadership and fight for Eielson.”
The Draft EIS states the preferred alternative is to relocate the F-16 Aggressor Squadron to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and subsequently “right-size” (aka downsize) the staff and remaining Wing at Eielson. The preferred alternative is primarily based on projected cost-savings. However, Begich and the Alaska delegation have long disputed the Air Force’s cost-savings assumptions as did the BRAC Commission in 2005 because significant investment will be required to provide adequate housing and accommodate the F16 planes and personnel at JBER.
Earlier this month, Senator Begich spoke personally to the Air Force Chief of Staff to remind him of the importance of Eielson Air Force Base to Pacific Air Forces. Senator Begich also wrote to General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Pacific Air Forces and former 3rd Wing Commander at JBER, to gain additional details on the way forward at Eielson Air Force Base.
General Carlisle is also conducting a strategic assessment of Eielson Air Force Base and Alaska. Both General Carlisle’s assessment and the EIS will be submitted to Air Force Senior Leadership to review for a final decision on the proposal to relocate the F-16s. No action may be taken before completion of these documents and senior leadership review.
The Air Force will hold public hearings in Palmer at the Alaska State Fairgrounds on June 17 and at Clark Middle School in Anchorage on June 18. Public hearings will also be held in Fairbanks at the Westmark Hotel and Conference Center on June 19, and in North Pole at North Pole Elementary School on June 20.
Senator Begich encourages Alaskans to review and comment on the Draft EIS, which will be available for download on May 31 at www.alaskaf-16eis.com. The final EIS is anticipated in Fall 2013.