News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) pressed Air Force Secretary Deborah James and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh about Air Force plans to possibly reduce the number of tankers being located at Main Operation Base 4 during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Air Force budget request. Senator Murray also reminded the officials why Fairchild Air Force Base is the optimal base to locate the tankers, citing Fairchild’s ability to handle the full complement of thirty-six aircraft, as well as its strategic location in the Pacific Northwest and proximity to other important bases.

 

“If the Air Force is committed to its plan to buy the full number of tankers, and rebalance to Asia, and support operations around the world, Fairchild Air Force Base is the absolute best location for Main Operating Base Four—it can handle the thirty-six aircraft,” said Senator Murray.

 

The Air Force is expected to announce preferred and reasonable alternatives for Main Operating Base 4 in Winter of 2016 and make a final decision in late 2017. 

Transcript of exchange between Senator Murray and Air Force officials:

 

Senator Murray: Secretary James, I wanted to ask you in your remarks you mentioned the incredible work our Air Force tankers have done historically, and most recently in coalition efforts in the Middle East. Just last year tankers transferred more than 1.2 billion—billion—pounds of fuel to other aircraft. The demand is growing and tankers are really critical to our ability to operate around the world. But as we all know, the tanker fleet is aging and we all understand the need to continue the replacement of the KC-135. So I was really concerned when I heard the Air Force is considering cutting, by a third, the number of tankers we’re going to buy for Main Operating Base Four; and I wanted to ask you why are you considering a reducing basing option with only twenty-four tankers instead of thirty-six for Main Operating Base Four.

General Welsh: Yeah, Senator what we are doing in the criteria is so that we can look at a broad range of the bases who are eligible, and capable, of operating KC-46s from them. As we score those bases, the idea is to look at solutions for the active, the guard, and the reserve. And so, every wing that we have can’t handle thirty-six aircraft, so looking at both twenty-four and thirty-six just lets us do the assessment—upfront—that we can now use in the next couple of cycles.

Senator Murray: Well, we have talked about this a lot, but I emphasize it again today. If the Air Force is committed to its plan to buy the full number of tankers and rebalance to Asia, and support operations around the world, Fairchild Air Force Base is the absolute best location for Main Operating Base Four—it can handle the thirty-six aircraft. It is strategically located, as you know, and is close to some of our other important bases. We’ve invested a lot in making sure Fairchild is ready for the new tankers. So I hope you will quickly complete this selection, and I think look at what we need in terms of the full tanker base.