U.S. Senator Bob Menendez yesterday visited the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), thanking the servicemembers and touting the importance of JBMDL to our nation’s security, and New Jersey’s economy. The Senate will soon begin debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), in which the senator is fighting to include additional resources to advance work at the Joint Base to house the KC-46A, the U.S. Air Force’s next generation air refueling tankers.
“Having this base designated as home to these new air refueling tankers sends a powerful message,” said Senator Menendez. “A message that says that the future of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst—America’s one and only tri-service base—is brighter than ever.”
While at the Joint Base, Sen. Menendez met with base commanders and a group of servicemembers to hear their priorities and concerns, and to answer their questions. He also toured and visited with the crews of a C-17 cargo aircraft and a KC-10 refueling tanker, the latter of which is expected to be replaced—thanks to the senator’s advocacy—by the KC-46A.
Sen. Menendez has continuously met with Air Force generals about the refueling mission, touting JBMDL’s role in the nation’s national defense, and the importance of keeping the refueling mission in this strategic location. In May, the senator led a letter requesting $158 million to both support the new KC-46As and to expand the base’s Navy Reserve airfield, which was included this month in the final military spending bill to further JBMDL’s mission as a power projection platform.
“I worked hand-in-hand with your leadership to make the case in Washington for bringing those KC-46 tankers to McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” said Sen. Menendez told a group of servicemembers. “And you helped carry out this mission too by preparing for site visits from senior military personnel, and by demonstrating your commitment to Rapid Global Mobility and Global Reach. The latest funding to prepare Joint Base facilities for the coming arrival of those tankers is in addition to the $287 million in military construction funding I’ve supported, requested, and helped secure for this base throughout my time in the Senate.”
In January, at the urging of Sen. Menendez and the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation, the Air Force announced that it had selected JBMDL to host the new, next generation KC-46A aircraft, which is expected to replace the air refueling capability currently provided by the KC-10.
During his visit, Sen. Menendez also promised servicemembers he would continue fighting for them when it comes to the NDAA, by offering an amendment modeled after the senator’s Military Families Credit Reporting Act, aimed at protecting servicemembers from financial ruin due to negative credit reporting—such as from missed bill payments—while they are deployed on active duty.
“As Congress begins debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, I’ll be working to include my legislation to protect the financial health of your families when you’re on active duty,” said Sen. Menendez. “My bill, the Military Families Credit Reporting Act, makes sure that credit reporting agencies notify you of something like a missed payment, before it becomes a bigger problem and sinks your family’s credit score. Your family shouldn’t be denied a car loan or a good deal on a mortgage just because you fell behind on a bill while serving your country.”
Sen. Menendez also led the fight to increase the pay for hundreds of JBMDL civilian employees by convincing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to correct a long-running pay disparity among workers from the lower Philadelphia wage area and the higher New York wage area, ensuring commensurate wages. The pay gap was created when operations at McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix in the Philadelphia region were consolidated in 2009 with Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in the New York region. Today, all civilian employees at the Joint Base are paid under the New York compensation schedule.
The air refueling mission of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command is a core mission at JBMDL, which is home to the 305th Air Mobility Wing (Active Component) that supports the delivery of cargo and personnel to combatant commanders abroad, and the 514th Air Mobility (Reserve Component). Both units currently fly the KC-10 Extender. The New Jersey Air National Guard’s 108th Air Wing flies the KC-135 air refueling tanker.
JBMDL has more than 88 mission partners, and employs and houses more than 42,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and their family members. It is comprised of almost 4,000 facilities representing $9.3 billion in infrastructure – and is the second largest employer in New Jersey. Economic analysis reports that JBMDL generates more than $6.9 billion in economic impact for New Jersey every year.