Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst protected in defense policy bill (South Jersey Times)
September 30, 2015 at 5:55 PM
The Pentagon could not close any military bases nor retire the KC-10 aircraft now housed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst under legislation heading to the U.S. House and Senate floor.
Congressional negotiators agreed to include both provisions in the legislation that sets defense policy for the next 12 months. The restriction would be in effect for the next two fiscal years.
The overall bill may face Democratic opposition because it increases defense spending over budget caps, which the Republicans have said prevents them from boosting spending on domestic programs, including on Amtrak following the May fatal derailment in Philadelphia.
The bill prohibits defense officials from spending money to retire its fleet of KC-10 refueling tanker planes, which are stationed at the joint base. The KC-10 provision was included in the House version and was authored by both New Jersey freshmen on the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Donald Norcross (D-1st Dist.) and Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.).
"The base is such an economic driver for the state of New Jersey but most importantly is part of our defense system for the United States," Norcross said.
The House also voted to prevent the Pentagon from transferring the fleet, but the final bill does not include that provision in order to give defense officials flexibility to move planes to another location if they are needed in war.
"The KC-10 is critically important not only to our military's air mobility and readiness, but to the survival of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the tens of thousands of New Jersey residents employed there," MacArthur said. "It is imperative that we protect our most capable and reliable refeuler from an early and reckless retirement and ensure our nation's ability to project power abroad."
President Obama, who visited the joint base in December, had requested a new round of base closings in his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Thursday.
Members of the N.J. congressional delegation had expressed concern that the joint base would be targeted if Pentagon facilities were scaled back.