New push to defend N.J.’s big military base from any efforts to shut it down
New Jersey’s big military base just got some added protection.
Deliveries of new refueling tankers to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst would proceed as planned and the base itself would be protected from any efforts to close military facilities under legislation that passed the House Thursday.
The annual National Defense Authorization Act, which sets Congress’ defense priorities for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, passed, 351-66, in the final House vote before the week-long Memorial Day recess.
The measure provides $708 billion in Pentagon spending, reflecting the higher levels negotiated in February by President Donald Trump and congressional leaders. That deal removed the spending caps that congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama agreed to in lieu of raising taxes to fund the military.
The Senate is working on its own version and the two bills then need to be reconciled and sent to Trump for his signature.
The legislation includes $2.1 billion for 12 KC-46A refueling tankers, which will replace the KC-10s now housed at the joint base. The Air Force announced last year that the joint base’s 305th Air Mobility Wing eventually would get 24 of the new KC-46A tankers by 2021.
“These refueling tankers will bring new jobs and growth to our state and make our base an indispensable starting point for national security missions on the East Coast,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist., a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
A separate provision expresses a “sense of Congress” that “the Air Force and industry should dedicate 7 the resources and manpower necessary to ensure the first KC-46 is delivered” during the current fiscal year.
The provision also calls the aircraft “an essential foundation for our nation’s ability to project power and deter adversaries, enabling the global reach of our joint force.”
The placement of these tankers will ensure that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst continues to be our nation’s premier air mobility installation and home to over 42,000 jobs,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., whose district includes the military facility.
There also is $10.2 million for to replace a refueling system at the base.
“As the current refueling system is broken, the aircraft with hazardous cargo must be refueled by tanker trucks — a time-and-labor intensive process that is costly, inefficient and increases the risk of fuel spills,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist.
This includes $10.2 million for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to replace the Hot Cargo Hydrant System, used for aircraft that require hazardous cargo parking. “As the current refueling system is broken, the aircraft with hazardous cargo must be refueled by tanker trucks–a time-and-labor intensive process that is costly, inefficient and increases the risk of fuel spills,” Smith said. “This necessary replacement of the hydrant system would upgrade the safety and efficiency of the tanker refueling at the base.”
The legislation blocks a new round of base closings, which New Jersey officials have worried could target the joint base, just as the Pentagon tried to scale back operations at McGuire Air Force Base two decades ago.
The prohibition protects “the joint base and the vital role it plays in our national security and local economy,” MacArthur said.
Read more at NJ.com.