FAIRFIELD — Travis Air Force Base will not become home to the new KC-46A air refueling tankers, at least not initially.
Col. Dwight Sones, commander of the Fairfield base, notified community leaders by email Wednesday that Travis is not on the list of finalists released by the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
Travis was one of four active-duty bases in California that were on the list of potential sites.
“While Travis was not approved as a candidate base, we will uphold our responsibility to the nation’s ongoing strategic airlift, aerial refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions circling the globe,” Sones wrote in the email. “We will continue to provide rapid, reliable airlift of American fighting forces anywhere on Earth in support of national objectives and to extend the reach of American and allied air power through air refueling.”
Bases are being chosen for both KC-46A basing and training.
McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas is competing against Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma for both the basing and training, and against Fairchild and Grand Forks Air Force bases in Washington and North Dakota for basing only.
Forbes in Kansas, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Pease in New Hampshire, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and Rickenbacker in Ohio are the five finalists in the National Guard basing site selection.
Travis is home to 27 KC-10 Extender tankers. There are more than 470 tankers deployed across the Air Force. These tankers support military operations worldwide.
Starting in 2017, the base chosen as the main operating base will support 36 active-duty KC-46A tankers, while 12 tankers would be based at the associated Air National Guard base.
Sones in the email wrote that the entire tanker project will continue through eight more KC-46A basing actions over the next 15 years. The new tankers will ultimately be assigned to 10 main bases, according to the Air Force.
The selection process includes a political component.
Politicians who represent a host of large air bases from New England to California spent months lobbying to make sure their base got on the short list. California’s two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, pushed for a base in California to make the list.
Locally, groups such as the Travis Community Consortium and politicians such as Rep. John Garamendi sang the praises of Travis Air Force Base as being the best West Coast base with the capacity to take in the aircraft and meet its support facility needs.
Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said he was disappointed with the news. He said it’s time to get to work to ensure that Travis is on the short list for future KC-46A basing decisions. He also acknowledged the political undertones in the selection process.
“I wasn’t surprised about Fairchild, but Kansas was a shocker,” he said. “Altus for a training base makes perfectly good sense to me, but the others look political to me, particularly the Guard bases.”
Price said the infrastructure and capability at Travis are factors that should play well into future base-siting decisions.
“I still think there’s an opportunity for Travis to get at least one of those assignments,” he said.
In the meantime, Price said he and other local leaders need to intensify lobbying efforts to boost the Fairfield base not only within Air Force circles, but also within Congress.
“I’ve argued for years that if the California delegation could come together on a given issue, we could get a lot of things accomplished because California has the largest delegation in Congress,” he said, while at the same time noting the fragmented nature of the delegation. “We have to build those coalitions.”
Price said he hopes to rally the retiree community, along with other organizations with military ties, around Travis for future basing decisions and also as a safeguard against the next round of base realignment and closure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Glen Faison at 427-6925 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.