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Study on moving Eielson F-16s raises concerns

Nov. 11, 2012 - 10:57AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2012 - 10:57AM  |  
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska The Air Force will produce a full environmental impact statement on its proposed transfer of Eielson Air Force Base's F-16 squadron to Anchorage, a move that raises concern with local and national officials who worry the service is going back on its word.

The move is expected to save at least $200 million during the first five years, but the Air Force chief of staff committed to not take any action to further the proposed transfer to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson until October 2013 after pressure from Congress.

"In my view it means that they are disregarding the direction from the Congress, most certainly from four committees that had moved some form of language that essentially put any Eielson activities or force structure changes on pause," U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the newspaper in an interview Friday.

Murkowski said military leaders appear to be pressing on with the move over Congress' stated objections.

"When the Congress basically says you shouldn't be doing anything until such time and says it clearly and in four different ways and yet the Air Force appears intent to go forward with the EIS, that is somewhat troubling," she said.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner">reports the Air Force in June awarded a contract for an environmental assessment of the proposed transfer.

The contractor who conducted the assessment says the fuller environmental impact statement would be needed for the move to occur.

"This is like the next step. This is a hard boot on the ground moving forward," said Fairbanks mayor Luke Hopkins.

Hopkins said he wonders why the Air Force isn't waiting until the expiration of the agreed-upon freeze on the proposed Eielson move before embarking on the expanded environmental analysis, which will include hearings in Fairbanks and Anchorage and a 45-day public comment period.

"There was a commitment that there won't be any action at all," Hopkins said. "But it is an action."

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