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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 19, 2017 1:00 am

Donnelly, Banks plan talk on 122nd's future

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, jointly announced Thursday they will have a roundtable discussion about the long-term future of the Air National Guard base in Fort Wayne.

The lawmakers said in a news release the purpose is “to discuss a collaborative plan to ensure the strongest possible future for” the 122nd Fighter Wing, “including the wing's current and potential future missions, opportunities for federal, state, and local action, and priorities for stakeholder advocacy.”

The meeting is scheduled for the morning of May 30, but a time and place have not been announced. Donnelly and Banks said participants will include federal officials and state and local stakeholders.

“As we work toward a long, successful future for the 122nd flying air combat missions for decades to come, we must engage with the stakeholders at every level,” Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Thursday in a statement.

“This is an excellent opportunity for federal, state and local leaders to come together and discuss how we can best advocate for the 122nd Fighter Wing and the guardsmen who serve in Fort Wayne,” Banks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. 

Members of Congress have been floating the idea of another round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., introduced legislation in January that would establish an independent commission in 2019 to review and recommend possible consolidations, realignments and closures of military installations.

Should the legislation become law, the Defense Department would implement those recommendations unless Congress disapproved.

In a March interview with The Journal Gazette, Banks said about prospects for BRAC, “I don't view that as a serious conversation in this Congress at this point.”

The last round of BRAC was in 2005.

The 122nd Fighter Wing flies a squadron of A-10 attack jets and is supposed to convert to F-16 fighter jets in coming years. The base also has been considered for the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter but was not among five Air National Guard bases selected in December by the Air Force as finalists for the aircraft.

About 1,000 people are assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing, including about 300 full-time airmen. The fighter wing has been deployed frequently to the Middle East and elsewhere.