GRANITE CITY — Scott Air Force Base still could be picked as a site for the Air Force's new air tanker, despite an announcement last week that the air base had not made the finalist list for the KC-46A tanker.
"The list of potential candidates for the assignment of the new tanker is just that. It's a potential list," said Christine Spargur, a spokeswoman for the 375th Airlift Wing, located at Scott, in Mascoutah. "It's not a final selection."
Spargur also emphasized that the work of the 126th Air National Guard Air Refueling Wing will continue its current mission regardless of the Air Force decisions on where the new air tanker will go.
"There is no deviation. There is no change. They are not going away," Spargur said.
Spargur spoke during a teleconference as part of Wednesday morning's meeting of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee, which convened at Southwestern Illinois College campus in Granite City.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon presided over the meeting.
"The military bases and installations across our state provide a great service to our country, and are also fundamentally important to our local economies," Lt. Governor Simon said. "At every level of government, we must advocate to keep our installations active and make sure the voices of our troops, their families and our defense communities are heard."
Simon serves as the chairwoman for Illinois' Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC), which coordinates the state's activities and communications relating to current and former military bases. She said the state committee could work with the federal caucus to support policies to keep Illinois bases strong.
The announcement that Scott had been omitted from the list of nine finalist bases "brings up one of those areas where we have to be as group have to be paying close attention to," Simon said. "I have to say that I was not involved in that, and I probably should've been... I think we just have to be more on the alert for other processes that will similarly cut back" military assets in the state.
Near the end of the meeting, former O'Fallon city administrator Frank Miles called for a combined effort of state and regional leaders to prepare for the expected return of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
The blue ribbon panel will be chosen to decide which military bases to close and keep open. Scott survived BRAC -mandate base closings in the 1990s and in 2005.
But there is a current deficit-cutting mood in Washington, D.C.
"It sounds different this time because of the 'fiscal cliff,' the lack of federal funds for operations," said Miles, the former chief of staff for retired U.S. Rep Jerry Costello, D-Belleville. "They're really talking about downsizing the Defense Department... I think it's going to be a deep cutting effort."