Continuing resolution protects Eielson F-16s for now

Congress is preparing a six-month stop gap funding bill. It should keep the government afloat until the end of March, and avoid any potential for a government shutdown before the election.

The House is expected to vote on a continuing resolution by the end of the week, and the Senate is likely to follow. The funding bill would keep the government operating at essentially the same funding levels, staving off any chance of a government shut down when the fiscal year ends September 30.

House lawmakers included language blocking any money for Air Force relocations, and that could grant a six month reprieve in Fairbanks. Representative Don Young called it a step in the right direction. He included a provision in a defense authorization earlier this year that would have required the Air Force to conduct a study on the realignment – a legislative maneuver to delay the move.

“The only thing that bothers me a little bit is, it’s not quite as strong as my language was. It’s only for a period of time – six months,” Young said.

So Congress could again open the issue of relocating the planes from Eielson to JBER next year.  But Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski have insisted they have assurance from the Pentagon the move won’t happen.

Earlier this year the Senate Appropriations Committee temporarily blocked the move. Senator Murkowski serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Senator Begich says the language in the CR reinforces the delegation’s demand.

“That language just codifies what we’ve already done, so it’s echoing what we’re doing already: They can’t spend the money, they can’t move forward,” Begich said.

It’s unclear whether the Senate will pass the House version of the CR as is, or it alters. If it does, the two chambers will have to meld the bills.  And that’s an unlikely option with Congress taking time off in October to campaign.

The entire Alaska delegation says they’ll support the stop gap.

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