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Berg: GFAFB in 'great shape' to face potential second BRAC

Grand Forks Air Force Base is in "great shape" to take on more missions and could withstand a potential new round of domestic base closures, Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., said Monday.

Rick Berg
Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg of North Dakota.

Grand Forks Air Force Base is in "great shape" to take on more missions and could withstand a potential new round of domestic base closures, Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., said Monday.

He met with local officials to discuss the future of the base, its growing unmanned aircraft mission and the Base Realignment and Closure round that the Obama administration says it will request from Congress.

Berg told reporters that the federal government is now "spending way too much money" and needs to make cutbacks. That means lawmakers need to look at the government to find ways to be leaner, more efficient and more effective, he said.

"Quite frankly if that's the criteria that spending is measured on, Grand Forks is in great shape," he said. "As we move out of the earmark era and into performance and priorities, what we have going here in Grand Forks should put them at the top of the list for an expanded mission and executing and building on the current missions that we have."

No BRAC support?


U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said last month the administration wants to trim $487 billion in defense spending over the next decade, and some of the savings would come from BRAC.

But Berg said the request appears to be dead in the water because it does not have enough support to pass the Republican-controlled House.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, California Republican Rep. Buck McKeon, has said he will not include the request in the House's defense reauthorization bill. Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee also oppose a new BRAC round.

"It needs to pass both chambers, and it's not going to pass the House," Berg said.

Congress, not an outside BRAC group, should be the body to make the budget decisions as it works to trim defense spending to deal with the federal debt and deficits, he said.

Unique strengths

Grand Forks Air Force Base is well-positioned to withstand future cutbacks, he said, because of its high quality infrastructure and strong ties to local businesses and UND. The base also is a UAS leader, he said, housing the Global Hawk Block 40 aircraft as well as a U.S. Border Patrol unmanned aircraft.

Berg said the Grand Forks facility is "ideally suited" to take on a new tanker mission because the base, which ended its KC-135 Stratotanker refueling mission in 2010 after 50 years, already has the necessary infrastructure for the vehicles.


He said the Air Force is expected to set the criteria for the new tankers next month, and the first round of hosting locations could be announced by the summer.

"I think one of the strongest assets that we have here in Grand Forks is the support of the community as well as the support of the university," he said. "Those two coming together with the base along with the private sector, it's unique in this country and that's one of the strongest selling points."

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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