Fresno air guard base saved
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The roar of fighters over Fresno will continue. A proposal to close the Air National Guard base in Fresno and leave the West Coast defended by Air National Guard planes based in Oregon, Montana and South Dakota has been rolled back.
"We're here today to say the 144th is safe," said Mayor Ashley Swearengin. "This is a tremendous relief to all of us."
Fresno's Mayor is relieved. She feared the loss of one thousand jobs and a multimillion dollar financial impact on the city's economy.
The threat even brought congressional rivals, Republican Devin Nunes and Democrat Jim Costa together.
Costa said: "The California Air National Guard the 144th air unit will continue to maintain the rich tradition that it has provided since World War 2."
Nunes added: "This base because of its location will be important moving forward in terms of being able to defend this nation."
The base was briefly in the sights of pentagon budget cutters who are looking at trimming ten thousand air defense personnel.
Congressman Nunes said the base was vulnerable because of a recent controversy involving twelve pilots who were accused of double billing for their pay. An Air Force review also gave the base low marks for maintenance of equipment and munitions. But Nunes credits the air guard leadership for quickly turning things around. "We don't need to get into all the scandals and the perceived scandals but the bottom line is it's been cleaned up."
The base is now in line to add personnel and upgrade its fleet of F-16 Fighters with 21 F-15's. The F-15's are slated to start arriving in May. The planes are newer than the F-16's and only slightly louder.
A lot of the credit to keeping the base open goes to the states two senators: Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. They told the Defense Department shutting down the Fresno base would weaken air defenses, waste the millions of dollars already spent upgrading to F-15's and the loss of jobs would damage an economically depressed area.
144th fighter wing, fresno east central, fresno, fresno county, local, gene haagenson
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