Two members of the Tampa area’s congressional delegation held a “strategy session” with officials at MacDill Air Force Base today with an eye toward adding more aircraft and infrastructure.
U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) and David Jolly (R-Pinellas) met with wing commanders at MacDill to talk about on base requirements like infrastructure updates needed for the new KC-135 tanker aircraft scheduled to arrive at MacDill starting in 2017, as well as expanded base housing and relocated Army Reserve helicopter units, according to a release from Castor’s office.
“A year ago, the Tampa Bay community learned that the MacDill Means Mobility bipartisan initiative launched years ago was successful in elevating our base’s profile and as a result, eight refueling tanker aircraft, attendant jobs and infrastructure are on course for our base,” Castor said. “Since that announcement, my congressional colleagues in Tampa Bay and I have had multiple meetings and discussions with military commanders and leaders in Washington, D.C. as well as in Tampa to ensure MacDill is in the best position to serve these additional aircraft and grow a talented workforce. Today’s visit provided an opportunity for Rep. Jolly and I to hear and view firsthand the needs of the base to ensure that we are advocating in the most effective way possible in Washington.”
Lt. Patrick Gargan, a base spokesman, said, “From what I hear the visit was well received by all those who attended.”
Aside from the base host unit — the 6th Air Mobility Wing — MacDill is also home to the 927th Air Refueling Wing as well as U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Operations Command Central, the Joint Communications Support Element and 34 other mission partners.
MacDill has about 14,500 workers, including both contractors and military personnel, and a $5 billion economic impact in Tampa Bay.
MacDill will likely receive about $32 million in upgrades to accommodate the eight new KC-135 refueling jets, Castor has said in the past.
Castor, who hosted a bipartisan meeting between Tampa’s Congressional delegation and a top Air Force official last July, said at the time that the delegation was advised about the needed infrastructure improvements by Kathleen Ferguson, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.
Ferguson advised that $32 million in infrastructure upgrades to prepare for the additional aircraft likely will be programmed in the next couple of fiscal years, Castor said in the media release.
“I expressed the need to begin construction of these upgrades soon so they are completed on time for the arrival of the KC-135s and that future basing of the new KC-46s should be a consideration,” Castor said at the time. “We are fortunate to have community-wide, bipartisan support for an expanded air mobility mission at MacDill (and we will continue to play offense at a time when DOD budgets are shrinking.”
The base is currently home to 16 of the Eisenhower-era tanker jets.
Jolly has been working to bring 23 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to MacDill from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, a move that could bring about $50 million worth of military construction to the base.
Relocating A and F Companies of the 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, would bring 23 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and upward of 150 personnel to MacDill, creating jobs in Tampa and bolstering the base against efforts to close military installations, according to Rich McClain, executive director of the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance.
Following up on an effort underway by the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young before he died, Jolly worked with Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, chief of Army Reserve, to secure a company of fixed-wing aircraft that would replace the helicopters at the airport, consisting of eight planes and about 50 people.
The planes will be C-12 and UC-35 aircraft, Talley wrote in a May 15 letter to Jolly.
The C-12 Huron is a turboprop light transport and the UC-35 Citation is a jet light transport.
Today’s meeting also included a review of key funding issues, personnel overview and infrastructure needs on the base, Castor said in the media release.