WASHINGTON, D.C. - At the urging of Senators Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment requiring the Air Force to reevaluate its Air Refueling Demand Model used to make strategic basing decisions for refueling aircraft. Senator Collins offered the amendment during the Committee's markup of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and it was unanimously approved.
Under the Air Force's current model, only lower priority missions will be included in evaluating a base's suitability for accepting new aircraft. The most important missions, including those that support wartime and counterdrug missions, missions directed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, or combatant commanders, and the deployment of assets in support of homeland defense are excluded. The Air Force has argued these missions, which make up 1/6th of the total Air Force refueling demand today, change too much with global events to make long-term basing decisions.
In her statement in support of reevaluation, Senator Collins said, "While I commend the Air Force for attempting to establish an objective, metrics-based approach to its future basing decisions, the current model can, and should, be improved. If, for instance, the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds visited a base in your region and are refueled in flight, that mission would be counted; but a refueling mission in support of a bomber en route to a contingency operation would not. When the Air Force excludes from consideration the very missions that are most important to our military's strategy, they are not adequately accounting for the contributions of a given facility to our national security."
Senator Snowe noted, "Air refueling units around the country were performing 'Priority 1' and 'Priority 2' missions long before 2001, and they will continue to do far into the future. Unfortunately, the Air Force's current model fails to account for these missions, a decision that would likely result in the Air Force locating its newest tanker aircraft in places that perform its less critical missions. Instead, the KC-46A basing process should account for all of the missions performed by its tanker fleet, particularly top priority missions such as enabling U.S. military aircraft to transit to overseas locations. The language that we had included in the committee report will ensure that the Secretary of the Air Force addresses this shortcoming in his basing model."
Bangor International Airport, home of Maine's Air National Guard 101st Air Refueling Wing "the Maineiacs" is a candidate base for the new KC-46A Refueling Aircraft.
Senator Collins is Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and is a member of both the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees. Senator Snowe is the Ranking Member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Finance Committee, and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.