Alaska could lose 5,000 defense jobs

Sen. Ted Stevens says he opposes changes at Eielson

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Kulis Air National Guard Station in Anchorage was targeted for closure and most aircraft at Eielson Air Force Base would be moved elsewhere under a base closure and realignment plan released Friday by the Pentagon.

No major facility in Alaska was on the Department of Defense base closure list, but the state would lose 4,818 military or civilian jobs.

Before closures or downsizings can take effect, the Defense Department's proposal must be approved or changed by a federal base-closing commission by Sept. 8, and then agreed to by Congress and President Bush. That process will run into the fall.

In four previous rounds of closures starting in 1988, commissions have accepted 85 percent of bases the Pentagon recommended for closure or consolidation.

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said he would oppose the changes at Eielson.

"In the long run the only real disappointment is Eielson. I intend to protest to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Alaska has half the coastline in the United States and we have the perimeter that faces Asia and there will be fewer aircraft in Korea," Stevens said.

He said first line of duty for the units at Eielson were to reinforce units in Korea.

Eielson, 30 miles south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway, is home to the 354th Fighter Wing. Pilots from the 18th Fighter Squadron fly F-16 Fighting Falcons, while those in the 355th Fighter Squadron fly the A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, which are tank-destroying, slow-flying jets often referred to as warthogs.

The fighters would be moved off Eielson under realignment, leaving the base with just one flying wing, the 168th air refueling wing, a National Guard unit, said Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. The Air National Guard flies KC-135s.

The Pentagon lists Eielson's loss at 2,821 military and 319 civilian jobs in a borough of 85,000 people.

Kulis is just south of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

The Alaska Air National Guard has been at Kulis since spring 1955, when it moved out of Elmendorf Air Force Base. Campbell said the closure would send the Air Guard back to Elmendorf.

Its mission is airlift - moving people and pallets of equipment - and both military and civilian search and rescue, Campbell said.

It will cost $81 million to close Kulis but the closure means an annual savings of $17 million, according to the military.

Closure of Kulis would mean the loss of 218 military and 241 civilian jobs, according to the Pentagon.

Operating at Kulis for 50 years has allowed the Air Guard to grow, Campbell said.

"Today we're one of the strongest combat search and rescue squadrons in the Air Force," he said.

Moving back to Elmendorf will not change what the squadron does, he said. The plan calls for the squadron to add four C-130 cargo aircraft to the 12 cargo aircraft and four tankers it has now.

Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage would lose 1,499 military and 65 civilian jobs, offset by direct gains of 397 military and 233 civilian positions, for a net loss of 1,102 military jobs and a net gain of 168 civilians.

Fort Richardson in Anchorage is targeted for the loss of 86 military and 199 civilian jobs.

The Alaska total direct loss would be 4,624 military and 824 civilian jobs. Alaska facilities would gain 397 military and 233 civilian jobs, for a net job loss of 4,818, including 4,227 military jobs and 591 civilian jobs.

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