Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) expressed their disappointment with the Air Force's decision to base the KC-46A tanker program at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, despite the strong bid from Fairchild Air Force Base in Eastern Washington.
"Today's decision by the Air Force is extremely disappointing, and seems to ignore the obvious advantages Fairchild has to support the military's regional and global priorities and major flight programs like the KC-46A," said Senator Murray. "While pressing the top levels of the Pentagon for answers on today's decisions, I will continue to work with the full delegation for future investments in Fairchild, including new tankers in the next rounds of basing decisions."
"The Secretary of the Air Force stated today that Fairchild will be a strong contender for future tanker basing decisions," said Senator Cantwell. "While today's preliminary tanker decision is disappointing, I will work with the Washington delegation and local leaders to bring new tankers to Fairchild and ensure it remains a vital asset for our nation's tanker program. With Fairchild's 50-year history as a vital resource in the U.S. tanker refueling program, Spokane remains a strong choice for locating future refueling tankers."
"This is not a loss. The Air Force has plans to procure 179 KC-46A refueling tankers. It is important to remember that this is only the first installment of 36 tankers. While it was our hope that Fairchild would be the preferred base to host the next-generation refueling tankers, today's announcement continues to bolster Fairchild's vibrant mission. In the next few years, the Air Force will continue to base KC-46A refueling tankers at additional installations," said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. "Moving forward, Fairchild will compete very well and is in an excellent position to receive them. "For over a decade, our community has worked together to let the Air Force know we would welcome the tankers at Fairchild. Today's decision demonstrates that our hard work was appreciated by the Air Force. I want to thank our community leaders -- civilian and military; public sector and private sector; and by officials in both parties -- for their commitment and teamwork. We have a lot to be proud of, and our efforts for Fairchild will continue."
In December 2011, May 2012, and most recently in April 2013, Murray, Cantwell, and McMorris Rodgers led Washington state delegation letters to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, highlighting the unique benefits that Fairchild offers the Air Force and the KC-46A tanker program, specifically. Fairchild, which is ideally situated to support the Department of Defense's broad-based focus on the Asia-Pacific region, is already home to the Active Duty 92nd Air Refueling Wing and the Washington Air National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing, which both fly the KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, and has continually modernized its facilities through more than $400 million in military construction investments.
The Washington state delegation strongly advocated for Fairchild's bid for the tanker program and has helped direct significant federal investments to the base. Those investments have included:
- $11 million to fund a new Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Force Support Complex
- $4.15 million for a Refueling Vehicle Maintenance Facility
- Funding for a redesigned hangar, energy efficient improvements, mission support complex, resistance training facility, and Armed Forces Reserve Center
- Funding for a new 14,000 foot runway, a new, state-of-the-art fitness center, and a new wing command headquarters to better integrate active-duty Airmen and Air National Guardsmen