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Safe for now: But Eielson warrants constant monitoring

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Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012 12:10 am

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial

Eielson Air Force Base seems secure for the short term — the very short term — now that Congress has approved a defense spending plan that includes a provision preventing the Air Force from making any equipment or aircraft movements nationwide until early in 2014.

The main legislation, which now goes to President Obama for his signature, cleared its last congressional hurdle Friday when the Senate approved a final version agreed upon by negotiators from both chambers of Congress.

The delay in carrying out the Air Force’s proposed transfer of Eielson’s squadron of F-16s and a large portion of the base’s personnel to Anchorage is significant and was championed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

But this delay, while welcome, should be seen as a blip on the calendar. 2014 will be here soon enough, meaning that local, state and federal leaders can’t rejoice in this victory and turn out the lights on the issue.

Eielson’s future needs continued attention.

Just as important as the delay, the defense legislation includes a provision preventing what has become known as a “back-door BRAC,” a perceived attempt by the Defense Department to achieve its goals by downsizing installations incrementally so as to avoid triggering the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process. The BRAC process involves Congress, and both Rep. Don Young and Sen. Mark Begich secured language in the legislation to prevent the military from skirting lawmakers.

It’s been a good few weeks regarding Eielson Air Force Base, which is an integral part of the Fairbanks and North Pole economies and, by extension, the state economy.

But we’ll soon be wondering yet again what the future holds for our local Air Force base.

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