Alaska editorial: Military base changes worked well for state

Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2007

This editorial appeared in The Voice of the Times:

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Over the years, we have been very leery about what might come from actions by the various reports from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission - known by the acronym "BRAC," and charged with ordering the military to shut down installations that may no longer fit the nation's defense needs.

Our focus was on seeing that Fort Richardson survived the heavy cuts that over the years were imposed in some parts of the country. For the most part, Alaska has done well.

It did especially well, as it turned out, in the 2005 BRAC report that directed that Kulis Air National Guard Base at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport be closed and its 176th Air National Guard Wing be relocated to Elmendorf Air Force Base.

It's a good deal all around, and the BRAC recommendation involving the Kulis-Elmendorf arrangement was implemented officially last week.

All involved are pleased.

Sen. Ted Stevens called it a "new partnership between the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard," one that will pay big dividends in the years to come.

Congressman Don Young described it as "a win-win" move that ultimately will benefit the airport and enhance the strategic importance of Elmendorf.

"Units from Kulis have served honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside active duty counterparts," Stevens noted.

Now, he said, the Air Force and the Guard "will work together to develop a mutual basing plan that will accommodate the requirements of both the 176th Wing from Kulis and Elmendorf's 3rd Wing." Airmen from Kulis, he said, soon will have "direct access to many of the new facilities Elmendorf has to offer."

New facilities are part of the move.

Over the next four years, 20 military construction projects will be in progress at Elmendorf to accommodate the influx of Air National Guard forces. And that's not all that's in store.

By closing down the Kulis operations on the south side of Anchorage International, the airport will have a whole new area to be developed to serve growing commercial needs. The expectation is that expanded cargo operations eventually will move into the area now occupied by Kulis.

It's far from an overnight move, however.

The forecast is that it will be Sept. 15, 2011, before this BRAC order will be fully carried out.

Slow and carefully staged. Call it a good move that's now under way.

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