June 17, 2005

IDAHO LEADERS DEFEND MT. HOME, GOWEN FIELD

Craig, Crapo, and Kempthorne testify before BRAC Commission in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. â?? Idahoâ??s U.S. Senators and Governor testified today before the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission regarding Mountain Home Air Force Base (MHAFB) and Gowen Field. The team took a divide-and-conquer approach to the presentation. Idaho Senator Larry Craig led off the 40-minute discussion by addressing military value, current and future growth, and the absence of environmental issues and encroachment at MHAFB. Craig stated, â??Without question, our pilots benefit from â??jointâ?? training. . . realigning Mountain Home to a single aircraft wing erodes critical in-place combat training synergies not found elsewhere. . . By making Mountain Home Air Force Base, and other bases around the country, a single flying unit, I fear we may be making decisions that will cost us more money in the long run to perform â??jointâ?? training. â??Idaho is best situated for its current roles and missions and presents the nation with its greatest strategic opportunity to expand while maximizing joint and coalition training opportunities at the lowest and most convenient cost to U.S. taxpayers.â?? Idaho Senator Mike Crapo followed, addressing community support, community sustainment, and the economic impact. â??The community of Mountain Home provides an unprecedented level of support for the Mountain Home Air Force Base,â?? Crapo said. â??We want to ensure changes to the base maintain stability for the local economy. Mountain Home Air Force Base is prepared to grow and continue to play an integral role in the future of the defense of the United States. The whole State of Idaho carries great pride in the Mountain Home Air Force Base and Gowen Field and wants to see them have a strong and prosperous future.â?? Governor Kempthorne addressed the importance of the mission of Gowen Field. The U.S. House of Representatives was in session today, so Representatives Mike Simpson and C.L. â??Butchâ?? Otter were unable to attend. ***BRAC 2005 Regional HearingCommunity Support & Economic ImpactPresentation by Senator Mike Crapo Mr. Chairman, Commissioner Coyle, Commissioner Hansen, and Commissioner Bilbray, it is a pleasure to be with you today and have the opportunity to share with you my perspectives on community support for Mountain Home Air Force Base and the economic impacts resulting from realignment changes to the base. Since 1942, Mountain Home Air Force Base has been an important part of the State of Idaho and the local community of Mountain Home. This long partnership has flourished in a state that is very patriotic and proud of its military missions and heritage. Mountain Home is the quintessential military town with an unprecedented level of support for their base. Driving through town, the pride they feel is evident at every corner from the banners stating â??Home of the Braveâ??, to the American and POW flags flying in support of military personnel. With the current deployments, there are signs of support everywhere, especially the yellow ribbons blanketing the town from the back of cars, to windows of businesses and homes, to being posted on the utility poles along the main streets of town. The City of Mountain Home has long been a supporter of the base and its missions. Mayor Joe McNeal, the City Council, all of whom are present here today, and the residents of the city keep the base and its mission in mind in their duties to ensure they speak with one voice. The town and the base are inseparable from each other. Many of the townâ??s 13,000 residents are retired Airmen who continue their support for the Air Force by working at the base or volunteering to help support it in various way. Nearly every business offers military discounts and much of the townâ??s workforce is made up of military spouses. The community understands the strain that the deployment schedule puts on the military member and their families. They provide a strong recreation program, school system, library and many other services supporting the families. During deployments, they are ready to support the families in any manner needed. The community shows its support of the base in many ways. Each September for the last 45 years, the community has organized Air Force Appreciation Day celebrations. The celebrations include the largest parade in the state, which marches proudly down the townâ??s main street, American Legion Boulevard. Air Force Appreciation Day attracts over 10,000 supporters. Every two years, the Chamber of Commerce Silver Wings of Idaho Committee partners with the base to provide a world class air show for this region. These events are invaluable to the local economy.Quality of life in Mountain Home is second to none for military personnel. The consistent high level of support for the military by the community is the best aspect for most Airmen. The town is less than thirty miles from a major metropolitan area. There is very little crime. There is no smog or traffic. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound. Families can feel safe. Your child can leave his or her bike in the front yard, and it will still be there in the morning. Airmen and their families stationed at Mountain Home love where they live.InfrastructureThe City has been working hard toward a strong and prosperous future for the base. With a steady annual growth rate and the anticipation of the possibility of new missions and growth to the base, the city committed to an upgrade of sewer and water systems. These upgrades are expected to accommodate the next 20 years of growth. Other recent upgrades undertaken by the city include doubling the size of the library and computer lab, expanding the cityâ??s firefighting capabilities, and a new junior high school. The City has undergone a significant increase in housing in the past eight years including 1,000 new homes and 400 new rentals. The local Chamber of Commerce and businesses play a vital role in the support of the base with the Mountain Home Military Affairs Committee, which recently celebrated its 25th year. The committee provides an important link between the community and the base and ensures constant communication between the two.The strong support for the base doesnâ??t stop at Mountain Home. The State support can be seen in the dollars that the Idaho Department of Transportation has spent with a new 4-lane highway from the City of Mountain Home ten miles to the main gate of the base. The State Legislature has also issued a Joint Memorial of Support for the airbase which was sent to the President. The State has supported a strong higher education program on the base. The educational infrastructure is used not only for military personnel and their dependants, but also for local community students. In addition, the state offers in-state tuition rates for active duty military that might maintain their legal residency in another state.Economic ImpactThe Department of Defenseâ??s recommendations to the BRAC Commission included realignment at Mountain Home Air Force Base. If realignment is approved in its current form, it would result in a net loss of 538 military personnel, 31 civilian personnel at the base and 305 jobs indirectly affected. The economic impacts of such actions would be immediately apparent in a small community like Mountain Home. For example, the loss of 538 military personnel represents 12% of the total personnel at the base. That loss represents payroll of over $20 million that would vanish from the small local economy. More importantly is the impact of â??Boom to Bustâ?? due to actual implementation of the proposed plan. While Mountain Home is a supportive and growing community, the turbulence of losing almost nine hundred jobs could upset this balance. One lost military position in a small, tightly-knit community such as Mountain Home has a greater tangible and intangible effect than one lost in an urban community. We must ensure careful planning in the schedule for realignment so the effects on this small community can be minimized. The ideal scenario would be for the BRAC Commission to deny the move of the F-16s and F-15Cs from Mountain Home Air Force Base under BRAC and then for the Department of Defense to make the move in coordination with the arrival of a new weapon system or mission and accompanying personnel. During this process, we must remember to keep an eye on the future. As Senator Craig and I have demonstrated, Mountain Home is well-positioned for future missions and weapons systems.BRAC and the CommunityIdahoâ??s preparation for the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure has been to prepare for the future. At every level, we have worked toward the modernization and sustainment of Mountain Home Air Force Base. Preparing for BRAC has been a long-term, grassroots effort from the local citizens and elected officials of Idaho. Mountain Home did not need to hire the work done; so many Idahoans volunteered to help that it truly became a community effort. I am proud to be a part of that effort.Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience with the overwhelming community support that Mountain Home offers. In my twenty plus years of public service, I have never experienced anything quite like it. Between the incredible community and state support, the lack of encroachment and environmental issues, the state-of-the-art training range, and the willingness of the community to do whatever it takes to aid the base in any mission it is given, Mountain Home Air Force Base is prepared to grow and continue to play an integral role in the future of the defense of the United States. Thank you Mr. Chairman, and members of the Commission, for your time this morning. Now Governor Kempthorne will present the strategic and Homeland Security importance of Gowen Field and BRAC's impact on its mission.