WASHINGTON — A change in Pentagon security procedures almost derailed Spokane's most recent formal pitch for new refueling tankers to land at Fairchild Air Force Base.
A group of city business and political leaders were in Washington, D.C. last week to meet with lawmakers and bureaucratic bigwigs to lobby for several pet projects. Chief among those was ensuring the new KC-46A tanker aircraft, rolling off Boeing production lines in Everett, would wind up in Fairchild's hangars.
But several members of the group, including Mayor David Condon and Greater Spokane Incorporated CEO Rich Hadley, found themselves on the curb looking in when Pentagon security required two forms of identification to enter the building…
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… A call from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was also attending the meeting, cleared the group for entry.
Knowing automatic spending cuts at the federal level, also known as the “sequester”, would be fresh on all lawmakers' minds, the delegation came with a focused pitch to Congressional members. Those included the Fairchild push, calls for federal money for the North Spokane Corridor and Inland Pacific Hub road projects, more funded slots for medical graduate students at Spokane's new health science center and a reinvestment in mining safety research at Spokane Research Laboratory.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, told the group their job was easy, because they were all projects he supported. But Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., stressed the detrimental impact of spending cuts to legislative priorities as she gave an update on the federal budget process from her position as chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.
“Funding is the issue,” Murray said. “And as we've seen federal funding ramp down dramatically over the last few years, it's very hard to make the case to spend additional money on anything.” Still, Murray said she's hopeful plans to replace the sequester, proffered by Senate Democrats, would free up money for some programs, particularly graduate medical research where there's “an incredibly good case to make,” Murray said.
Hadley said the fly-in, which also included a candlelight tour of the Capitol building and a chat with McMorris Rodgers about her role in party strategy as the Republican Conference Chair, was productive, particularly the session on graduate medical research. Twelve new spots for mining research were announced during the trip for the Spokane Research Lab.