FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s congressional leaders are skeptical about a new Air Force report outlining changes proposed for Eielson Air Force Base, saying more than $200 million could be saved by moving the base’s squadron of F-16s to Anchorage and that hundreds of jobs will be affected.
A 26-member task force visited Eielson in April. It assessed 10 specific areas — including operations, logistics and manpower — and concluded that the relocation plan was “satisfactory” in seven areas and “marginal” in three.
None of the areas studied was deemed “unsatisfactory,” according to the report.
The report states that the relocation of the F-16 squadron isn’t the first step toward a full shutdown of Eielson. It says Eielson will continue to be a “valuable strategic location” as the home of a National Guard refueling wing and a hub for local training operations.
The report determines that 623 jobs will be affected at Eielson in fiscal year 2013, with most of them transferred to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The departure of an additional 749 Air Force and 179 civilian positions is planned in 2015.
In all, the job losses represent about half the 3,100 military and civilian positions currently at Eielson. Air Force officials announced their plan in February to relocate Eielson’s F-16 squadron to Anchorage. The move is in response to the Budget Control Act that is requiring the Department of Defense to identify $487 billion in savings during the next decade compared to previous spending plans.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said in a statement Thursday that he was still “concerned that the numbers still do not add up.”
The report estimates direct manpower savings from the F-16 relocation at $14.6 million during the next five years. That is due in part to eliminate 81 positions. When related costs are included, estimated savings came in at $227 million during the same time span.
Those numbers vary significantly from initial estimates presented by the Air Force. The direct savings cited in the report are about half of the roughly $32 million originally calculated, while the overall savings improved by nearly $60 million.
Sen. Lisa Murkowsk, R-Alaska, and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, also expressed skepticism about the report. They both said the change in the first-year cost estimate — another $9 million in up-front expenses was added in the task-force report — calls into question the accuracy of long-term projections.
Citing a lack of responsiveness from the Department of Defense, Begich put a hold on the promotion of an Air Force general in April until a better analysis was made available. He said Thursday in a news release he won’t be lifting the hold.