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Proposal: Seymour Johnson F15-E Strike Eagles remain through at least 2029

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Gen. Petr Pavel, NATO military committee chairman, and Maj. Adam Mattheis, 335th Fighter Squadron pilot, prepare to take off in an F-15E Strike Eagle, Nov. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Mattheis recently returned from a deployment in which 2,000 bombs were dropped over enemy territory, and more than 10 high-value Islamic State of Iraq and Levant individuals were killed. (Airman Miranda Loera/U.S. Air Force)

By Alan Wooten
The Center Square

Proposed national defense spending of $923.3 billion in fiscal year 2025 includes keeping the F-15E Strike Eagles at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base through 2029.

The full Senate is next with a floor vote on the National Defense Authorization Act following Monday’s passage in the chamber’s Committee on Armed Services. The House passed the bill 217-199 on Friday.

The Air Force was going to take away 26 of the aircraft next year from the 335th Fighter Squadron. The plan was met with resistance, among others, by Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Rep. Don Davis, D-N.C., the latter a veteran of the Air Force.

If passed by the Senate, the next likely step would be a conference with the House to agree on a final version before going to President Joe Biden for his signature into law.

The legislation would also approve $307 million in military construction, planning and design funding for installations throughout the state. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point would get more than one-third, with $65 million in incremental funding toward a $213 million Aircraft Maintenance Hangers project, $50 million for an F-35 Aircraft Sustainment Center, and $20 million in incremental funding toward a $114 million Composite Repair Facility.

Budd, a member of the committee voting 22-3 to advance the bill to the floor, said in a statement, “As was made clear in countless Armed Services Committee hearings this year, F-15Es are incredibly capable aircraft that are unmatched in the fleet.”

Budd said “eight military installations, a growing defense industry, and world-class academic and research centers contributing to our national security” call North Carolina home.

“The investments we are making in our state and our military are necessary to combat the growing threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and terrorists plaguing the Middle East and coming across our border,” Budd said.

Camp Lejeune would be authorized for $82.4 million: a $57 million outlay for the Information Maneuver Facilities for Marine Forces Special Operations Command, and $25.4 million for a SOF Armory. SOF is an acronym for Special Operations Forces.

Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg, would get $30 million for a Special Warfare Center and School Company Operations Facility, and $11.8 million for an SOF Arms Room Addition.

Authorization to Seymour Johnson would also include $41 million to construct a Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Complex. The state’s National Guard would be authorized for $6.3 million to plan and design a flight facility in Salisbury.

Budd, junior senator for the state, in April voiced concerns during an exchange in his chamber with Gen. Charles C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the conversation, Brown confirmed the senator’s line of query on F-15E Strike Eagles being in many ways “unmatched air to ground” and “air to air.”

“We aren’t standing idly by as the proposed 520-job cut at Seymour Johnson threatens to damage eastern North Carolina’s economy,” Davis said. “I will continue fighting fiercely to keep all four squadrons in Wayne County and ensure economic stability in the East. Safeguarding our national security and preserving these jobs are not mutually exclusive, and the Air Force must be honest about that.”

In a breakdown, the Department of Defense would be funded with $878.4 billion, the Department of Energy $33.4 billion, and defense-related activities outside the jurisdiction of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The executive summary says the spending plan equips for long-term strategic competition; modernizes the future battlefield; strengthens the Joint Force and Defense workforce; and builds American combat power.

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