It has been two years since the October 2009 launch of LukeForward.com, a statewide campaign to petition the Department of Defense to select Luke Air Force Base (AFB) as the second active duty training base for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission. Luke is currently the largest active duty F-16 training base in the world, and the Air Force is planning to begin replacing its fleet of F-16s with the new F-35 within the next few years.
The LukeForward campaign was developed by West Valley Partners and Fighter Country Partnership to generate awareness and support of the positive impacts the F-35 will bring to Arizona. Over 22,000 supporters have registered on the site! Fighter Country Partnership Board Chairman Charley Freericks and I serve as the co-chairs of the campaign.
West Valley Partners is the name selected for the organization made up of 14 municipal and county government members. The organization’s sole function is to retain appropriate federal representation in Washington, D.C. Our team of representatives work to secure funding for critical upgrades to Luke infrastructure; monitor legislation that impacts Luke and the military in general, and create awareness at all levels to assist in our goal of preserving current and future missions at Luke AFB. West Valley Partners’ efforts have resulted in federal appropriations to Luke and the Barry M. Goldwater Range of more than $14 million over the last few years.
Since launching LukeForward, the base has been named the “preferred alternative” which means it is the front runner for receiving the F-35 mission. Much work has been accomplished by the communities that surround Luke, as well as by the leadership of Fighter Country Partnership. It is vital that we continue to focus on our ultimate goal of bringing the F-35 mission to Luke.
Arizona’s federal delegation in Washington D.C., Governor Jan Brewer and individual cities and towns throughout Arizona have come out in strong support of basing the F-35 training mission at Luke AFB.
Recently, Senator John McCain brought together several local officials to reiterate his strong support for the F-35 mission coming to Luke, while also sharing his concerns regarding programming costs. In recent months, the Pentagon has asked for funding transfers to avoid cuts to the number of F-35 scheduled to be purchased. Senator McCain intends to analyze the funding transfers very closely for the purpose of not impacting other areas of the defense budget.
The Air Force anticipates releasing the draft Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for F-35 in September 2011 and making its final determination by March 2012. Public participation and support are critical to Luke receiving the F-35 mission. Over the next seven months, your community leaders will be calling on you to make your support for Luke AFB well known.
I want to thank all of you who have been supporting our efforts up to this point and ask that you continue your involvement. You have made a positive impression and have contributed to getting us to this point!
I want to encourage those who may be reading about our efforts for the first time to join with us by signing up at LukeForward.com. Your voices of support for bringing the F-35 mission to Luke Air Force Base will be extremely valuable in the coming months. Registered supporters will have access to the latest information, including the EIS public meeting schedule.
Together, we can help ensure Luke’s best possible future.
This article is made available with permission of Pueblo Publishers, Inc.