FAIRBANKS, Ak - Brigadier General Mark McLeod is in town, leading the Site Activation Task Force team in preparation for the relocation of the18th F–16 Agressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
The General said the decision has already been made, however he says he will "carry the water," or include considerations and concerns from the community in the final SATAF report.
McLeod told Interior leaders this week the decision to relocate the 18th Aggressor Squadron to Anchorage was originally to better align capabilities from a strategy perspective in the Pacific theatre.
When President Obama's 2013 budget was revealed, the playing field changed and savings in personnel became a primary factor.
"From the aspect of the President's budget, we are tasked in this process to move the airplanes to J–BER (Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson) and try to mitigate any shortfalls, deviations that result from that," said McLeod.
Shortfalls and deviations in the primary consideration of savings would include such things as no additional military construction, or housing, at JBER and no additional responsibilities added to the Air Refueling Wing left at Eielson.
These would be considered deviations from the savings mission.
Added to what General McLeod calls, "second and third order affects," are the concerns from the community.
"My involvement in this is to do the very thing that I mentioned upstairs which is to try and broaden our normal SATAF look, just a little bit, and start to consider some of those other factors, because ultimately those decisions will be made by congress and by our senior leaders by deliberations. We have the responsibility of providing as much open information as we can to empower those folks to make the right decision," McLeod stated.
Community leaders feel that open information hasn't been forthcoming on a local level, state, or even provided to members of Alaska's congressional delegation, leaving the question unanswered: How will transferring 542 airmen and equipment to JBER realize savings of 32 million dollars over five years?
A bigger question still: Is there a way to reverse the decision?
"The universal answer to that would be, "yes," but the process that we have set up now doesn't directly support that," noted McLeod
The final SATAF report will be delivered May 31st.