WASHINGTON, DC - Idaho Senator Larry Craig made the following statement today regarding the commitment he received in 1996 from the United States Air Force to provide a full squadron of C-130 aircraft for Gowen Air Field, Boise, Idaho, and the discussions he has had with the Air Force since that time.
"In 1996 the United States Air Force made a commitment to Idaho for a full squadron of C-130 aircraft. In 1996, Idaho received four C-130s in what the Undersecretary of the Air Force at the time said was the 'first installment' of eight aircraft. Since 1996 I have tried to work with the Air Force to address this aircraft shortfall in Idaho and hold the Air Force to their word. During this time I have secured over $40 million in Military Construction dollars in anticipation of a full squadron. Ultimately the Air Force made a commitment - and Idaho, in good faith, invested in that commitment with the help of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
"Once the preparations for a full squadron were well underway in Idaho I began to discuss with the Air Force when Idaho would be receiving our aircraft. During the last 18 months I have held nearly a dozen meetings with various Air Force officials. While at each of those meetings I was assured that Idaho is an ideal location for the squadron, each time the Air Force also told me that nothing could be done to uphold its commitment, or give Idaho any options to help us meet the Air Force's own standard of an eight aircraft squadron. Facing a brick wall, I placed a hold on Air Force Officer promotions, as other Senators have done in the past, to get the Air Force's attention and to send the message to its leadership that this commitment must be met and that I expect them to keep their word.
"In response to the promotion holds, the Air Force decided to use the media as a tool in order to leverage me to drop Idaho's fight for a full squadron. In several anonymous quotes attributed to Air Force officials, they have called my move blackmail and even stated that the Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces was working against me - that is not the case. Since the Air Force has decided to use the media and publicly discuss our negotiations, let me now say that the Air Force has had several opportunities to resolve this issue.
"Recently, after Air Force leadership repeatedly refused to address this issue, it appears the Air National Guard drafted up a reasonable solution I would have supported. However, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Pentagon turned down any solution and said the Air Force would 'wait this one out'.
"It is worth noting that in yesterday's New York Times article an anonymous Air Force official accidentally made a strong case for future military missions in Idaho. The official said, 'the Air Force is getting smaller, not bigger.' This statement is true, and it is all the more reason for the Air Force to bed-down future military equipment in states that are supportive of the military and have lower cost operationsnot states with questionable support for the military and environmental restrictions around every corner.
"Idaho is one of the last states in the Union where its military training ranges are expanding - not shrinking because of environmental regulations. Included in our extensive military construction is our newly built Air Assault Strip. It is worth noting that several Air Force bases have begun preparations to use Idaho's Assault Strip for training including Washington's McCord Air Force Base. That base must seek permission from Air Mobility Command to use Idaho's strip because McCord, which houses the military's prominent cargo aircraft, the C-17, cannot build an air assault strip of their own due to environmental issues. This is only one example of Idaho's attractiveness for military training."