Durbin Meets With Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James To Discuss Illinois Defense Priorities

Later this week, Durbin to question Secretary at Air Force budget hearing & meet with TRANSCOM Commander at Scott Air Force Base

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met today with Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. During the meeting, Secretary James and Durbin – who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees discretionary spending for our nation’s military, including bases – discussed the long-term future of Illinois’ Air Force installations, including Scott Air Force Base.

Wednesday morning, Secretary James will testify before Durbin and other members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense at a hearing on the Air Force budget for Fiscal Year 2016. Later that day, Durbin will also be meeting with Air Force General Paul Selva, Commander of U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) at Scott Air Force Base. A photo of today’s meeting with Secretary James is available here.

“I am proud to represent some of our nation’s most critical Air Force defense installations – including Southern Illinois’ Scott Air Force Base, Springfield’s 183rd Fighter Wing, and Peoria’s 182nd Airlift Wing – and the talented servicemen and women who work there,” Durbin said. “It was a pleasure meeting with Secretary James today to discuss the future of the Air Force in Illinois, and I look forward to continuing our conversation later this week when she testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.”

Following Secretary James’ testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Durbin will meet with General Selva to discuss operations at Scott Air Force base and to receive an update regarding TRANSCOM’s progress resolving issues with International Auto Logistics (IAL) and delays in Global Privately Owned Vehicle Program (GPC III).

In August 2014, Senator Durbin wrote to General Selva and asked that he provide him with regular updates on the progress of TRANSCOM and IAL’s mitigation plan and the overall program's on-time delivery rates, numbers of vehicles in transit, and the status of the process to reimburse service members and their families for their hardship. In October 2014, Senators Durbin and Cochran – then the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense – wrote to the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) to request an audit of the GPC III program. In response to their letter, the DMCA contacted the Department of Defense Inspector General, which began an investigation into the program.


Illinois is home to a number of important Air Force installations including: Scott Air Force Base, led by 375th Air Mobility Wing and comprised of a number of major tenants including Transportation Command, the 932nd Airlift Wing and the 126th Air Refueling Wing; the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield; and the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria.


Today, Durbin and Secretary James discussed the strong contributions these installations make to the Air Force, as well as future opportunities to continue to contribute to the nation’s defense. Last April, at Durbin’s request, Secretary James visited Scott Air Force Base to tour Scott’s Air Operations Center and the 126th Air Refueling Wing. Secretary James received a firsthand update on the base’s operations and the missions which the base’s various commands are pursuing.


In March, also at Durbin’s request, General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force toured the base and met with civic and business leaders from nearby communities to discuss the strong local and regional support for the base. In June 2014, the Air Force announced Scott would soon receive two new cyber-security squadrons. In December 2014, Durbin and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) sent the Director of the NGA a letter in support of housing a new NGA facility at Scott Air Force Base.


Durbin and James also discussed the 183rd Fighter Wing’s current operations and capacity for future missions. Springfield’s 183rd Air Guard repairs F-16 jet engines and its Air Operations Group (AOG) provides Air Force “surge capacity” to help manage complex air campaigns. As Vice Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Durbin has advocated to the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau Chief that the 183rd is perfectly positioned to take on a new cyber, remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA), or intelligence-support mission because of its extra classified operations space.

Durbin serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the military and intelligence community, the nation’s national security requirements and the daily needs of over two million active duty and reserve service members. The Subcommittee also oversees funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, including military operations worldwide. All told, the Subcommittee controls more than half of the nation’s annual discretionary budget.