WASHINGTON, D.C.–Keeping the Air Force C-130J aircraft at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi has become a top priority for some members of Mississippi’s Washington delegation. The loss of the air craft squadron to a base in Little Rock would mean a blow to the economy for the state and would ultimately cost the country money, said Sen. Roger Wicker and Cong. Steven Palazzo, both Republicans.
It could also cost the nation in terms of national security.
Sen. Roger Wicker said this week that he is not satisfied that the federal government has any real reason or justification for moving the squadron and he is also not satisfied that his questions about the move have been answered.
“I am convinced that the transfer of C-130Js from Keesler will not actually produce promised financial savings since a new airlift group would have to be physically established at Little Rock,” said Wicker, addressing Air Force Secretary Deborah James and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh. “Put simply, the proposal is shortsighted.”
“This move will adversely impact our intra-theater airlift capability at a time when our services are evolving toward a more rotational deployment model. I believe the Air Force must make force structure decisions based on long-term global force requirements, as well as concrete and defensible data.”
“The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force’s recommendations do not specifically endorse or recommend the transfer of C-130Js based at Keesler,” Wicker continued.
Wicker said he believes the C-130Js at Keesler are part of one of the most successful Total Force installations in the country with active and reserve component airmen working seamlessly together. All of the efficiencies and synergies the Air Force would hope to obtain at Little Rock are already in place at Keesler, he said.
The impact of the transfer of personnel from the coast could mean a hit to the economy around the base, which depends, to an extent, on the patronage of Air Force personnel and their families.
“I strongly suggest that it would be prudent for the Air Force to consider keeping these aircraft at Keesler in order to provide the best value to the warfighter and taxpayer.”
Palazzo has said he believes the move to be entirely political.