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Pentagon review adds uncertainty to debate on future of Eielson

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Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2012 11:00 pm | Updated: 10:36 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A study released Friday on U.S. military forces in the Pacific adds a new argument to the debate about the future of Eielson Air Force Base.

The report does not mention the proposal to move the F-16s from Eielson to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

But it does suggest studying the consolidation of F-16s with those at Misawa Air Base in Japan and Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

The report does not say where the consolidation ought to take place.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies independently examined the status of U.S. forces in the Pacific under a Pentagon contract sought by Congress last year.

The Washington-based think tank, a bipartisan nonprofit with a board chaired by former Sen. Sam Nunn, offered the “broad dimensions of a durable operational framework, but not every detail.”

Regarding Eielson, one way to read the document is that a new focus in the Pacific might require a consolidation in Japan, South Korea or elsewhere in the region. Another way to read it is to see Eielson or bases on the West Coast as potential points of consolidation.

There are 36 F-16s at Misawa and 36 at Kunsan, the report says. In both Japan and Korea, there might be objections to removing aircraft because of existing agreements with allies. However, at Kunsan, training is limited and the forces have “difficulty maintaining full readiness status.”

The report notes that Alaska bases are seven to eight hours away from East Asia and there are fewer restrictions on training in Alaska than overseas.

“However, despite its relative proximity compared with California, Oregon or Washington, Alaska is still far removed from places of potential contingency or conflict compared with Guam and particularly Japan, Korea and other allies and partners within the region,” the CSIS said.

Here is the paragraph from the report that suggests looking at consolidation in the interests of efficiency: “Consolidate F-16 squadrons among Misawa, Kunsan and Eielson bases to create full 24 primary assigned aircraft squadrons. In the case of Misawa, ongoing use of the base by U.S. and JASDF forces and units would keep the base open for future uses and dispersal actions, though government of Japan objections to removing permanently deployed F-16s from Misawa must be considered.”

Overall, the CSIS said that the Department of Defense “has not adequately articulated the strategy behind its force posture planning nor aligned the strategy with resources in a way that reflects current budget realities.”

•••

ON THE BALLOT: The state primary election is a month away.

In addition to candidates running for office, there are two measures on the statewide ballot, both of which are the product of signature-gathering campaigns.

You’ve probably heard something about the Coastal Zone Management initiative, but a measure to allow an increase  in the residential property tax exemption has received little coverage lately in Fairbanks and almost no coverage outside the Fairbanks area.

The campaign to allow local governments the option of increasing the residential property tax exemption began in the Fairbanks area.

For many years the idea gained a lot of local support, but it always met with opposition from the Legislature. The exemption was raised from $10,000 to $20,000 in 2004.

In 2009, Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, along with Borough Assembly members Nadine Winters and Eileen Cummings sponsored the petition to get this on the ballot. More than 34,000 Alaskans signed the petition.

The measure would allow the borough, with local voter approval, to increase the exemption from $20,000 to $50,000 per residence and allow for increases in the cost of living by ordinance.

A local government would have to put the question before the voters before offering a tax exemption or raising it.

The exemption would mean a decrease in residential property taxes and an increase in property taxes on businesses. The main opposition always has been from those who object to cutting taxes on homeowners if it means shifting more of the burden to businesses. Supporters of the measure say local voters should have the right to make the call either way.

•••

IN THE RUNNING: Dorothy Shockley is running in House District 38, the contest that features Democrat Rep. David Guttenberg and Republican Rep. Alan Dick.

This is the Goldstream/Bering Sea district. Shockley is not in the primary election because she intends to run as an independent in the general election. The Division of Elections says it has yet to confirm that she submitted the required 50 signatures by June 1 to get her name on the November general election ballot.

•••

FROZEN PIPES: The state is seeking a contractor to replace the new potable water lines at the new Ruth Burnett Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks, which froze last winter.

The bids were to have been opened Wednesday in Anchorage. The project was advertised from the Anchorage office of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which put the estimated cost of the design/build contract at from $100,000 to $250,000.

The damage to the water pipes is the subject of a dispute between the state and one of the contractors on the project.

To submit items for his column, please contact Dermot Cole at cole@newsminer.com or call 459-7530.

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