U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and community leaders kicked off an effort today to promote the importance of MacDill Air Force Base to federal officials in the hopes of having new KC-46 refueling tankers assigned to the base. The bipartisan effort, called MacDill Means Mobility, will serve as a rallying point to communicate the strengths of MacDill and for the military advocacy already in place in our region.
Castor is spearheading efforts to bring new KC-46A refueling jets to MacDill and is working to raise the profile of the base to decision-makers at the Pentagon. New KC-46A tankers would solidify our region's significance in both the critical refueling mission of the Air Force and the national security of our nation. The KC-46 is the U.S. Air Force's primary recapitalization priority.
"We intend to compete very well for these new tankers," Castor said. "MacDill Air Force Base is ideally situated near fighter aircraft bases. We do not have encroachment issues others bases have. We have newly resurfaced runways, capacity in our hangars and accessible refueling areas. And we have room to grow.
"New tankers would lead to new jobs, bringing a boost to our economy," Castor continued. "Now we need to unite and make our case to Washington."
On Wednesday, Castor is leading a group of community leaders to Washington to showcase the strengths of MacDill Air Force Base. The group includes Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; County Commissioner Al Higginbotham; representatives from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce; former Congressman Jim Davis; former Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, Gen. Chip Diehl; and other community advocates.
MacDill is one of the largest employers in the Tampa Bay area and has a nearly $3 billion annual impact on the economy. The base is home to many KC-135 refueling Stratotankers. Congress has authorized the replacement of these tankers.
The refueling mission is critical to the Air Force, and MacDill is proud to play a major role in fulfilling this mission. Bases will be evaluated in terms of mission, capacity, environment, among other factors.
At a news conference Monday, Castor was joined by representatives from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Buckhorn, Higginbotham and Congressman Rich Nugent.
"Today's event should send a clear message that this community is united in its effort to bring the new KC-46As to MacDill," Nugent said. "Air refueling has been a core part of MacDill's overall mission and it will continue to be in the coming years and these tankers ensure the continued success of that mission. At the end of the day, this is about jobs and ensuring that our military has the mobility that it needs"
Though unable to attend the news conference, Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are lending their support, as are Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross and Bill Young.
"MacDill plays a vital role in our national defense and in the local economy - and it's in our interest to keep it that way," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Stationing additional tankers there would help bring more jobs to the Bay Area and further strengthen the base's national security mission."
Said Rubio: "MacDill Air Force Base remains a vital component of our national security structure, housing two combatant commands, Special Operations Command and Central Command and the 927th Air Refueling Wing. I was fortunate to visit MacDill last month and tour a KC-135 tanker. Replacing these aging tankers is the Air Force's No. 1 procurement priority. It is my hope, and I intend to work with the Florida Congressional Delegation, to bring a new fleet of tankers to MacDill as they are constructed."
Said Rooney: "Bringing these jets to MacDill is a win-win -- for the Tampa area, this would help grow our local economy and create private-sector jobs, and for the Air Force, there's no base better equipped to station these tankers."
A list of finalists is expected later this year.