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Eielson without Eielson: What would happen to the base if the F-16s move?

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Posted: Friday, June 8, 2012 10:40 pm

FAIRBANKS — The footprint of Eielson Air Force Base would look substantially different if plans go through to move the base’s F-16 fighter planes to Anchorage.

A map with more than three dozen Air Force buildings marked for re-purposing or demolition was one of several new documents the Air Force prepared this week at the request of the Tiger Team, a group of local business and government leaders who meet Friday mornings about the F-16s. The group met this Friday with Air Force officials.

The Eielson Air Force base map drew particular attention because the value of the buildings — some $195 million, according to the Air Force — approaches the $227 million the Air Force says it would save over five years by moving the F-16s.

Local leaders worried that the loss of the expensive infrastructure, especially if it is demolished, would kill the potential of the Interior ever becoming a home to future Air Force units.

“It doesn’t look to me like we’re anticipating getting any future missioning coming to Eielson,” said Steve Lundgren, a Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce board member and vice president of Denali State Bank. “If we were for instance to get a wing of (next generation) F-35s, would they need to reconstruct those facilities or is this just closing down Eielson to future airplanes?” he asked.

About half the items on the map — those associated with the F-16 squadron — are not headed to certain destruction, said Col. Karl Bosworth, director of installations and mission support for the Pacific Air Forces. When the squadron moves to Anchorage, the Eielson buildings will be classified as “excess capacity” and would have an uncertain fate. In order to save on maintenance, the Air Force would want to unload them, but they could be converted for non-Air Force uses, he said.

The other half of the buildings on the map were scheduled to be demolished in 2012 before the call was made to move the F-16s, Bosworth said.

These buildings are being demolished this year because the Air Force could not justify the expense of repairing them.

The structures include the Sourdough Inn — a housing site for transient airmen — and a community center, parachute shop and two air freight terminals.

‘Inside baseball’

One of the documents the Tiger Team saw Friday was labeled “Internal (Air Force) only” and outlined different contingencies for Eielson, including eliminating the F-16 squadron or the Red Flag Alaska exercise. This document came to the Tiger Team through Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office, which requested it from the Air Force.

Brigadier Gen. Mark McLeod, who is in charge of developing the plan for the F-16 move, described the document as “inside baseball.”

Budget planners are always trying to find something to cut and drew up these now-rejected options, he said. “Now that we have done our initial calculations, a lot of this doesn’t hold water.”

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.

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