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FAIRBANKS, ALASKA — A draft Environmental Impact Study released by the U.S. Air Force recommends moving forward with a proposal to transfer a F-16 fighter jet squadron at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
The study released Friday also recommends keeping Eielson as a temporary base for the aircraft several times per year for training exercises, the Fairbanks Daily New Miner reported.
The study includes anticipated consequences for the Fairbanks area, which stands to lose 21 planes and 1,551 military and civilian jobs under the proposal. Some jobs would go to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and others would be eliminated.
Proposed by the Air Force in February 2012 as a cost-saving measure, the transfer has faced criticism from members of Alaska’s congressional delegation.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich told the newspaper in a telephone interview that he was dissatisfied with the draft report and said it is not a “decision document.” The Air Force must also complete another report on strategic consequences as part of its proposal, and Congress would need to allocate money for the F-16 squadron transfer before it could be approved.
“There’s no appetite in (2014 or 2015) for any BRAC (military base closure) by both the majority members of the Armed Services Committee as well as several key players in the minority, including the ranking member,” he said.
The Air Force estimates the squadron transfer would save more than $200 million in salaries and benefits.
The Air Force report, despite its overall recommendation for the squadron transfer, also identified some of the move’s impacts for an estimated 150 families. They would not be able to find housing in Anchorage that meets the Air Force’s cost quality and commuting standards, and they also would also face higher costs or longer commute times, according to the report.
The borough’s unemployment rate could increase from 6.2 percent to 8.9 percent.
Meanwhile, the document dismissed security concerns raised at local meetings about taking the planes out of the Interior.