FAIRFIELD — The proposed retirement of the KC-10 air tanker fleet will not mean a loss of manpower at Travis Air Force Base when the KC-10 squadrons there are retired, a delegation of Solano County leaders were told when they met Monday with the commander of Air Mobility Command.
“A bridge mission would maintain the manpower,” said Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn, one of those who journeyed to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., for a meeting with Gen. Paul Selva.
In time, that would be replaced by a yet-to-be-determined mission for the base, which Selva told local leaders was an essential part of Air Mobility Command and an important part of maintaining the American presence in the Pacific and Asia.
The delegation of Travis Community Consortium members included Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert and Solano County Administrator Birgitta Corsello.
They met with Selva to talk about the proposal to retire the 59-aircraft KC-10 fleet as part of Department of Defense’s efforts to deal with billions of dollars in federal budget cuts the military is expecting to endure during the next decade. Travis is home to 27 of the KC-10s.
At present, the proposal calls for phasing out the KC-10s over a four-year period starting in the 2015-16 fiscal year, with a trade-off each year between McGuire Air Force Base and Travis, according to Quinn.
Quinn said Selva’s argument supporting the retirement of the aircraft “was well-thought out,” pointing out that the KC-10 was more expensive to maintain than the KC-135 during the period of time it will take to deploy the KC-46, the Air Force’s next generation of air tanker.
“He made a very strong case for why the KC-10 is being retired,” Seifert said.
Where the first tier of KC-46s will be stationed has already been decided, but where future tiers of KC-46s will be deployed hasn’t.
Overall, the meeting was described as very positive – with this area’s support of Travis praised for its willingness to work with the Air Force on any issues affecting Travis.
“He said the community partnership between the base and the community is unique,” Seifert said.
Price said Selva was pleased with the zoning and long-term planning around Travis, including the acquisition of the Wilcox Ranch to keep the base from being encroached upon and the moratorium concerning wind turbines near Travis.
“He pointed out that this part of the country, particularly Fairfield, has been very mindful of the military presence that is needed at Travis Air Force Base,” Price said.
Selva both pointed out the advantages the base has when it comes to its proximity to transportation hubs and fuel sources, as well as concerns such as the potential for compacted airspace due to the large amount of air traffic generated by airports in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas.
“He explained how important it is for our folks (local and congressional representatives) to be so supportive and mindful of the role of supporting Travis’ need for available airspace,” Price said.
One area the Travis Community Consortium will be aggressively looking into is how the base and the surrounding community can expand public-private partnerships to allow the Air Force to carry out its mission more efficiently and economically, said Chairman Bud Ross, who was in Southern California to meet with members of the Governor’s Military Council.
The delegation said that meeting with Selva has significantly lowered the level of concern for Travis’ future when the KC-10 departs.
“It does not mean we can’t be vigilant,” Seifert said of protecting Travis’ needs and missions.
Fairfield has thus far championed the lobbying efforts of the Travis Community Consortium. Price said consortium members are now being “pretty aggressive” to convince more of the area’s communities and businesses – both within and around Solano County – to provide funding and support for the consortium’s efforts.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.