WATCH: Sen. Kelly Presses Air Force Officials on the Future of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
In case you missed it, yesterday, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly spoke with Air Force officials about plans to bring new, enduring flying missions to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to ensure that the base maintains its critical role in our national security.
During the hearing, Kelly pressed the Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, and Air Force General, Charles Brown Jr., to commit to working closely with the Arizona congressional delegation and community stakeholders on meeting the timeline and goals of bringing new missions to the base.
“Secretary Kendall and General Brown, I want to thank you for your continued collaboration as we secure a long-term future of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson,” said Sen. Kelly during the hearing. “I’ve lost count of all the meetings that we’ve had, but I think our work together has brought real progress, and I’m encouraged by the current plan to bring new, enduring missions to Davis-Monthan that would keep the base at the center of our national security for years to come—as it should be.”
Sen. Kelly questions Air Force officials at the hearing on Tuesday, May 2
In April, Sen. Kelly led a letter to Secretary Kendall urging the Air Force to work closely with Arizona leaders on the future of Davis-Monthan. Sen. Kelly, a Navy Combat veteran, chairs the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee which oversees Air Force planning and operations. In response, the Air Force convened a meeting in Tucson with local stakeholders to discuss the plan and receive community feedback.
You can read a transcript of Sen. Kelly’s exchange on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base below or click HERE to watch.
Sen. Kelly: Secretary Kendall and General Brown, I want to thank you for your continued collaboration as we secure a long-term future of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. I’ve lost count of all the meetings that we’ve had, but I think our work together has brought real progress, and I’m encouraged by the current plan to bring new, enduring missions to Davis-Monthan that would keep the base at the center of our national security for years to come—as it should be. The new plan would bring an additional search and rescue presence and brand-new electronic warfare platforms to DM that are important as the Air Force modernizes. The electronic warfare platforms, which is the new Compass Call aircraft, would be entirely based at DM, and the new Special Operations “power projection wing” would bring additional new flying missions and some exciting capabilities to DM under this plan. General Brown, can you comment on this wing’s importance in the context of the Air Force’s strategy?
General Brown: Sure, Senator. Just as the name implies, the aspect of power projection and with our SOF [special operations forces] from Air Force Special Operation Command will be part of the base, in addition to the electronic warfare capability from the EC-37B, helps us be able to execute that power projection aspect. I think the other beauty of coming to Davis-Monthan is being able to bring special operation capability out to the southwestern United States and the range capability and the ability they’re able to train in the western United States, not only in Arizona but in other parts of the Western United States, will also help us with that power projection.
Sen. Kelly: Thank you. We have a very unique weather situation—a combination of weather and ranges. This plan has important aspects for our national security. And importantly, it retains the same number of quality, high-paying jobs in Tucson. I’m glad to see that the Site Activation Task Force has now begun its work at DM to make preparations for these new missions. I know you requested some site and environmental review funding in the budget request. For my part, I’ll be working to ensure that gets over the finish line in this committee. As well as strong funding to advance the procurement of our new electronic warfare aircraft for DM and other assets in this plan.
Secretary Kendall: I can assure you we’ll be paying a lot of attention to this and doing everything we can to assure that it happens as planned. I was just at Davis-Monthan. You’ve got some great people there and we want to make sure we do what we’ve laid out in order to support them.
Sen. Kelly: Anything specifically that you’re doing to avoid any potential delays?
Secretary Kendall: I think we are working with all the affected organizations right now to make sure that that planning is in place. I know the special operations people, in particular, are leading forward trying to be prepared for this. We talked about the EC-37s earlier and what’s going on there. I think we’re in, generally, good shape, Senator.
Sen. Kelly: Full transparency is very important for me, so could you please make sure you highlight any potential issues to Congress, to this committee as soon as they are encountered? That would help us get through this as expeditiously as possible.
Secretary Kendall: We will do that. General Brown, are you aware of anything that’s pending?
General Brown: No particular issues. Having just finished the first site activation task force, I think we’ll be able to identify if there are any critical aspects that we need your support on. But I would also say we also appreciated the opportunity to meet with the community leaders as well. That happened roughly about the same time frame so I think [we have a] good dialogue. We want to continue that dialogue and work very collaboratively to make sure we make DM successful.
Sen. Kelly: Thank you. I look forward to working together through this process, and making sure we stay on track.