The criticism about the chronic dysfunction and inaction of Congress is often well-deserved. So much so that it’s difficult for constituents to remain positive about the productivity of our lawmakers, particularly on issues of local concern.
But for nearly a year, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, and Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden, have been working together on a defense policy bill to ensure that the KC-10 refueling jets remain at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the base doesn’t fall victim to mandated federal spending cuts.
MacArthur and Norcross are a prime example of how things get done when legislators work together.
Eliminating the KC-10 Extenders would be a hardship for the joint base and Burlington County.
The 42,000-acre base is the largest employer in the county, engaging 44,000 civilians and military personnel.
More than 1,000 of those jobs are associated with the refueling tankers, and their loss would weaken the installation’s value — a real concern when it comes to future rounds of base closures.
Like many lawmakers, Norcross and MacArthur have talked about working across party lines. But when MacArthur was looking for a co-sponsor to work with to get the KC-10 amendment attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, he went right to Norcross.
Although the base is not in Norcross’ district, they began working together to save the refueling jets last year. And after they found themselves together during an all-night session of the Armed Services Committee, voting on dozens of amendments to the measure, they successfully added an amendment that would prevent the Air Force from spending defense funds to move or to retire the KC-10 fleet early. The bill also forbids a new round of base closures.
The KC-10s have been in use since the 1980s and are supposed to continue at the joint base until the newer KC-46 tankers are built and tested, at least until sometime in 2017.
It took a lot of careful guidance and hard work, but on Nov. 11, the Senate passed a new NDAA with the KC-10 language intact, and the White House has indicated that the president will sign it into law.
We’re not kidding ourselves that two local congressmen working together represents some miraculous change in congressional culture. But it’s good to know county residents have two active allies who share common goals and a commitment to protect JBMDL.
While the fight for the base is far from over, Norcross and MacArthur deserve our thanks for their hard work and joint efforts.