Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial
Earlier this year, critics of the proposal to move Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16s to Anchorage detected a potential flaw in the analysis: The Air Force had assumed it wouldn’t have any trouble housing the people it would move to the Anchorage area.
This week, a contractor hired by the Air Force to study the issue confirmed that assumption was indeed flawed.
Housing is extremely tight in the Anchorage area. If the Air Force wants to move 1,500 people there, it will need to either build new housing or pay the premium rental prices that would be created by such a demand spike.
Either way, the additional expense for housing must be entered into any cost-benefit analysis of the move.
The Air Force views the F-16 move as a cost-saving step. The contractor’s report calls into question at least one factor in the analysis that caused officials to adopt that view.
According to the study from SAIC, a defense consulting firm, Anchorage’s vacancy rate is about 2.6 percent. That’s very tight. This fact “significantly limits the number of units available to absorb additional military households,” it concluded.
The Air Force’s original proposal, which was contained in a national down-sizing plan, would have had the F-16s and personnel in Anchorage by the summer of 2013.
After objections from the Alaska congressional delegation, the Air Force agreed not to take action on the move for at least a year. They also agreed to look at the housing question and analyze the environmental effects of the move.
Confirmation of the costly flaw in the original housing analysis probably won’t derail the Air Force’s F-16 proposal in itself. So Fairbanks and Alaska’s congressional delegation must continue to work on the issue.
We have a year, but that isn’t much time in which to convince the powers-that-be of Eielson’s value as a host for the F-16s.