View Full Version : Rep. Moves to Delay F-15 Drawdown

08-03-2009, 07:27 PM
PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- The retirement of Tyndall Air Force Base's two F-15 fighter squadrons may be delayed, if language inserted by Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, into the U.S. House's $636 billion defense appropriations bill makes it through the Senate and a conference committee.

The Fiscal Year 2010 defense appropriations bill passed the House on Thursday by a 400-30 vote, and will go to the Senate for consideration.

In a released statement, Boyd said language he inserted into the bill would delay the F-15 retirement at Tyndall until the Air Force has provided Congress with detailed reports on the long-term effects of the drawdown.

Boyd also asked for an independent review, conducted by the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), on the impact of the Air Force's restructuring plan and for an Air Force cost-benefit analysis on its proposal to move F-15 training to Kingsley, Ore.

Reached by phone Thursday after the vote, Boyd said he hoped the bill would go through a conference report intact and to President Barack Obama's desk. "I'm very pleased with the language we got in there," Boyd said.

He said the Senate hadn't started debate on its defense bill, and likely would start deliberations next week or in September after recess.

Bay Defense Alliance President Tom Neubauer said the review would look at whether the drawdown was safe and could be done without adversely affecting the Air Force or National Guard's defense missions.

"We'll see what works out with the Senate," Neubauer said.

Neubauer said he and other BDA officials were in Washington, D.C., on Monday and met with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., about the proposed F-15 drawdown and the defense appropriations bill.

He said questions about whether the Air Force's planned retirement of legacy fighters such as the F-15 are strictly for budget reasons or could affect air defense might be answered in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, a Department of Defense study of military strategic objectives and threats that Neubauer said likely would be released in the spring of 2010.

The Air Force announced in May a plan to accelerate the F-15 drawdown by three years, from fiscal year 2013 to FY 2010.

Boyd, who serves on the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, said he still was confused about the Air Force's plans to accelerate the F-15's retirement, given the Air Force had indicated to him there would be a fighter plane gap between the retirement of the F-15 and the arrival of the F-35.

He said getting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz to visit Tyndall in June was helpful in showing the community support given the base by area residents.

"There's a fighter plane training culture around the Panama City area at Tyndall Air Force Base that you can't find anywhere else," Boyd said.

The congressman said he had not heard anything new about the F-35 and the possibility of all or part of that fighter's mission coming to Tyndall.

Boyd also announced Thursday he had secured $18 million in appropriations for several projects at Tyndall and Naval Support Activity-Panama City.

The $18 million includes $5 million for Tyndall to apply toward biofuel use at the base.

According to Boyd's office, Tyndall will use the funds to help the Air Force meet its mandate of deriving 50 percent of its aviation fuel from non-petroleum based sources by 2016.

Another $2.5 million in the bill would go toward fine water mist fire suppression technology at Tyndall.

According to The Associated Press, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the chief author of the defense spending measure, originally had sought $369 million for a start on 12 additional F-22s.

But after a veto threat from Obama -- and a decisive vote against the airplane in the Senate last week -- Murtha beat a tactical retreat and instead directed $139 million toward spare engines for the F-22 and the C-17 cargo plane.

Despite objections and veto threats from the White House, the $636 billion Pentagon spending bill passed Thursday contains money for a much-criticized new presidential helicopter fleet, cargo jets that Defense Secretary Robert Gates says aren't needed, and an alternative engine for the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the Pentagon says is a waste of money.

It also contains $128 billion for Pentagon operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would bring the total appropriated by Congress for those wars and other efforts to combat terrorism above $1 trillion. The bill rejects Obama's $100 million request for the Pentagon to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

It's the last of the 12 annual spending bills to come to the House floor as Democrats meet their goal of passing all 12 bills before the August recess.