Burlington Co. Times article on Smith, MacArthur Efforts to Land Future Jt. Base MDL Aircraft'"NJ lawmakers meet with Air Force leader to discuss joint base, new tankers'
The following news article on efforts by Smith and other NJ Members of Congress to land future replacement aircraft for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst ran on March 5, 2016:
Gen. Carlton Everhart, commander of the Air Force's Air Mobility Command, met with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez on Wednesday to discuss the joint base and the new KC-46 jets.
Reps. Chris Smith, R-4th of Hamilton, and Tom MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, met with the general the following day.
Headquartered at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, the Air Mobility Command oversees the Air Force's global cargo and passenger delivery missions, midair refueling and aeromedical evacuations. Everhart will have a significant say in the final destination of the KC-46s, which are being built by Boeing as upgrades for the Air Force's aging tanker fleet, which is largely made up of 1950s-era KC-135s and the larger KC-10 Extenders, which have been in service since the early 1980s.
The joint base is among a group of 11 installations the Air Force is considering as candidates for the new jets, which are currently being built and tested.
All three lawmakers described the meeting as an important milestone in their efforts to convince the Air Force to select the base for the new planes.
Acquiring the jets is considered crucial to the installation's future, particularly if a new round of base closures eventually occurs.
In a statement, Menendez said maintaining the joint base's refueling role and securing the new jets is his highest priority.
"I stand ready to work with Air Mobility Command to ensure it has the resources it needs to maintain global mobility for refueling and airlift missions," the senator said.
Smith and MacArthur, whose districts host the expansive installation, said they tried to make clear the joint base's advantages for hosting the new jets.
"The New Jersey delegation has a strong record of demonstrating the value of the joint base and working in a bipartisan fashion to stave off ill-conceived proposals to close or realign the installation, while highlighting its ability to host new missions," Smith said. "We impressed upon Gen. Everhart the base's strategic location, the skills of our workforce, and the capacity and infrastructure currently in place that will allow JB-MDL to easily absorb, and successfully execute, this mission."
Currently, 32 KC-10s and eight KC-135s are housed at the joint base, which is Burlington County's largest employer.
MacArthur said the base has proved to be an "indispensable military asset" and should be considered a serious contender for the jets.
Last year, MacArthur penned an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that protected the base's KC-10 fleet from early retirement.
"We have worked hard to insulate the base and secure its future by protecting the KC-10, and we're fighting for the new KC-46s," he said. "I left this meeting confident that the joint base is a serious contender for mission placement, and I will use my position on the House Armed Services Committee to work in every way possible to make this happen."
A final decision on where the new tankers will be based is expected next year. Air Force leaders have said the branch ultimately plans to establish as many as 10 bases for 179 KC-46 tankers.
Recently, Everhart said that the Air Force has no plans to retire any of its KC-s or KC-135s before the newer tanker jets are introduced, and that the KC-10 could return to the chopping block if broad spending caps mandated by a 2011 law return in October 2017.
"It's not a matter of whether I like an air frame or not. I just have to look at what airplane is most expensive to me, and if that winds up being the KC-10, it's the KC-10," Everhart said last month during a symposium in Florida.
His statements at the symposium were reported by the website Flightglobal.com.The article originally ran in the Burlington County Times March 5 at: http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/news/local/nj-lawmakers-meet-with-air-force-leader-to-discuss-joint/article_340bc9b8-e233-11e5-9b73-93eba440483a.html.