Everyone, including us, talks about how well-positioned Scott Air Force Base is for the future. But getting passed over to host the new KC-46A air refueling tanker is a huge reminder that our region cannot take the future for granted.
The Air Force announced nine bases are finalists to get the next generation of tanker planes, and Scott shockingly is not on the list. A lot of people expected it to be. Scott is home of the 126th Air Refueling Wing, is well-positioned geographically and has excellent infrastructure.
Having the tankers here would make sense from a national defense standpoint as well as strengthen Scott. Listen to Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is delighted that McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas made the cut: "If you get the tankers, no (base closing) is going to touch you for a long time. That's a 50-year long commitment."
Three bases will be selected for the KC-46A in this first round; eventually the Air Force expects to have 10 bases with them. So there's still hope. But the Missouri and Illinois congressional delegations as well as local political leaders need to start working now to ensure Scott makes later lists.
We no longer have U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, dubbed the patron saint of Scott, but Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is the second ranking Democrat in the Senate and newly elected Rep. Bill Enyart is on the Armed Services Committee. They and all the area lawmakers need to use their clout to lobby for Scott.
And locally, metro-east and St. Louis area politicians need to present a united front in making the case for Scott, the metro-east's single largest employer. They must check their egos and parochial agendas at the door and work together to land some of the new tankers.