Wicker, Cochran Keep Pressure on Air Force Regarding Keesler Transfer

Defense Authorization Bill Prohibits Move of C-130Js Until Air Force Issues Reports to Congress

May 23, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today expressed their support for provisions in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) regarding the future of the C-130J transport aircraft at Keesler Air Force Base.

The proposed transfer of Keesler’s C-130Js is the third attempt by the Air Force to relocate the planes in the past two years, yet questions remain whether such a move would produce the promised financial savings.

The defense authorization bill, which the Senate Armed Services Committee approved on Thursday by a vote of 25-1, would prohibit any movement of aircraft until 60 days after the Air Force provides detailed written reports to Congress.  Additionally, the Air Force Comptroller General would be required to send a separate report to the Air Force on cost assessment 45 days after the original reports are received.  Although the proposed transfer of C-130Js is scheduled for this year, the committee expects the Air Force to comply with the provision until the FY2015 NDAA is enacted.

“I am pleased that this year’s NDAA demands the Air Force to provide more details about the transfer of C-130Js from Keesler and whether the move would actually produce savings for American taxpayers,” Wicker said.  “Keesler has been recognized as the top Air Force installation in the country, and this move could have a negative impact on our forces’ intra-theater airlift capability.  I will continue to call for answers about its costs and consequences until officials can justify the transfer of planes and personnel with defensible data.  I know that Senator Cochran, a leader on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, will demand the same level of accountability.”

“The actions taken by Senator Wicker and the Senate Armed Services Committee reflect a lack of confidence in the information the Air Force  is using to justify moving C-130 aircraft.  I share that concern when it comes  to the C-130Js at Keesler.  The Air Force is on notice that we want more concrete data,” Cochran said. “I invited Secretary James to Keesler, one of the best bases in the nation, so she can see first-hand the infrastructure and facilities that make this mission possible for our fine airmen.”

Each year, Congress exercises its oversight of the U.S. defense budget by authorizing military spending in the NDAA bill.  The legislation is the vehicle for setting funding levels for defense appropriations bills. 

Sen. Cochran and Sen. Wicker serve as senior members of the Senate’s Appropriations and Armed Services committees, respectively.  Sen. Wicker is the lead Republican on the Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee, which oversees Air Force operations.