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WA Delegation to Air Force: Put new tankers at Fairchild

Washington's congressional delegation is a diverse group that doesn't agree on much, whether it's who's waging a "war on women" or what's the right policy on taxes, budget cuts, health care reform or immigration.

But they managed to rally around one favorite topic this morning: Putting the first new KC-46A tankers at Fairchild Air Force Base.

OK, so it's kind of a no-brainer that planes assembled in the state at a Boeing plant would stay in the state at Fairchild. Still, all nine representatives and both senators signed on to a letter today to Air Force Secretary Mike Donley and various generals that Fairchild would be a really great spot for the first '46As because it has both Active Duty and Air National Guard units that fly tankers, an improved runway, and is close to the Asia-Pacific theater. That plus the federal government has spent about $400 million on a wide range of improvements over the last few decades. (Stuff that we assume the secretary and the generals already know, but hey, they're busy guys so it probably doesn't hurt to remind them.)

A copy of the full letter is inside the blog.

Dear Secretary Donley:

On behalf of the Washington State delegation, we would like to extend our appreciation for the service and sacrifice made by the men, women, and families of the United States Air Force. In honor of their effort and service, we applaud the recently released diligent, timely, and thorough strategic basing criteria for the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker - a set of criteria that is exceptionally important to this critical mission and Fairchild Air Force Base in our home state of Washington.

Fairchild Air Force Base has been a historic part of our nation’s aerial refueling effort and is well positioned to achieve global-level reach, especially to the emerging Asia-Pacific theater. The base is a strategic staging platform, supporting the rapid worldwide global mobility mission with access to a number of aerial refueling routes while minimizing transit fuel consumption. We believe the recently announced strategic basing criterion situates Fairchild Air Force Base in a very competitive position.

Currently, Fairchild is home to a classic association of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing with the Air National Guard 141st Air Refueling Wing. As we have previously illustrated, this association marries the best the active duty and reserve components have to offer, providing for world-class aerial refueling, airlift and aeromedical evacuation capabilities while fostering innovation and efficiency in operation. As you know, the Air Force also continues to recognize Fairchild Air Force Base’s assets and has invested over $400 million in base infrastructure over the last several decades.

To that end, Fairchild already possesses much of the needed capacity to accommodate the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker as the Air Force has already improved the 14,000 foot runway, invested in a new, state-of-the-art fitness center, and last month broke ground on a new wing command headquarters that will better integrate active-duty Airmen and Air National Guardsmen. Furthermore, Fairchild Air Force Base provides an exceptional quality of life for its Airmen and the local community has embraced the base. It is a strongly desired duty station and is the second most requested Air Force assignment in the United States.

The Spokane community is an award winning, proud military community that embraces all military personnel, their families, and retirees and is worthy of hosting the KC-46A aerial refueling tankers.

We ask you to keep us briefed as the strategic basing process continues and look forward to working with you to base the new KC-46A tanker fleet at Fairchild Air Force Base.


U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers

U.S. Senator Patty Murray  

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell

U.S. Representative Rick Larsen

U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler

U.S. Representative Doc Hastings

U.S. Representative Norm Dicks

U.S. Representative Jim McDermott

U.S. Representative Dave Reichert

U.S. Representative Adam Smith


Cc:          General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force

General Raymond E. Johns Jr., Commander of Air Mobility Command

General Craig R. McKinley, Chief of National Guard Bureau

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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