Members of the Travis Community Consortium recently traveled to Washington, D.C. last month to take our advocacy for Travis Air Force Base to leaders in Congress and the Pentagon.
The significance of Travis cannot be overstated.
Travis contributes more than $1.6 billion annually to our region’s economy. The airmen and civilians employed on base, and their families, are valued members of our communities. It is essential to remain active and engaged in supporting and protecting its mission.
Our advocacy in support of Travis and the Air Force is particularly critical at this time, as shrinking defense budgets trigger difficult choices for the Department of Defense.
We spoke at the Pentagon to senior Air Force leaders about the future of the KC-10, basing for the new KC-46A tanker, the role of Active and Reserve Associations, and the Air Force’s request for another round of Base Realignment and Closure. While there’s little appetite for a Base Realignment and Closure round in the current Congress, the Department of Defense continues to push to reduce the costs associated with running bases, especially in the Air Force, which believes it has excess real estate.
We met with Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson on the second day of our visit, as well as the offices of California’s senators, to update them on key Travis issues and thank them for their continued support and leadership.
The future of the air refueling mission at Travis was at the top of our agenda.
Last fall, the Air Force publicly considered a plan to divest all 59 aircraft in the KC-10 fleet, 27 of which are stationed at Travis. Congress provided some relief from sequestration in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement in December, which allowed the Air Force to hold off on eliminating the KC-10 in this year’s budget. However, the service has said if sequestration is reinstated, the KC-10 could begin to be retired beginning in 2016.
The KC-10 provides tremendous air refueling and transport capability, but the Air Force makes a compelling business case that it is not affordable for the long term. The operating and maintenance costs are high and will only increase as commercial carriers will soon no longer operate the DC-10 airframe, on which the KC-10 is based.
If the Air Force decides the KC-10 is no longer economically viable in the near future, we must be looking to the future now – and that is the KC-46A.
The Air Force is committed to buy 179 KC-46A aircraft by the end of the next decade. The training unit, and first two operating bases for the KC-46A, were selected last year, and we believe Travis has the ideal infrastructure and location to host multiple KC-46A squadrons. The next round of KC-46A basing decisions will be made in the next two years.
Through our advocacy and assistance from our congressional leaders, we believe the base can see a seamless transition from the KC-10 to the KC-46A with minimal fluctuations in manpower. We made that case clearly during our visit and will continue to do so.
As in our previous discussions with senior Air Force leaders, we were repeatedly told that Travis will remain a key and vibrant part of our nation’s defense. With its transport and refueling capability supporting the projection of forces from the West Coast, Travis has long been called the “Gateway to the Pacific.”
The Travis Community Consortium believes that is more than a slogan; we know that Travis is a critical asset to our national security that must be continually protected and enhanced with the new generation of aircraft.
Sandy Person is chairwoman of the Travis Community Consortium and president of the Solano Economic Development Corp. Reach her at email@example.com.