Highlights JSTARS program, other military, economic assets

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., along with U.S. Representatives Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.-02, welcomed U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson at the second annual Robins Air Force Base congressional breakfast today in Washington, D.C.

Highlighted at today’s meeting were the economic and military contributions that Robins Air Force Base brings to Georgia. As home to the Air Force Reserve Command, the 78th Air Base Wing and Air Logistics Complex, and the entire U.S. fleet of Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft, Robins Air Force Base plays a vital role in our national defense and provides support to all branches of the military throughout the world. The efficiency and effectiveness of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center contributes significantly to U.S. military operations worldwide.

The Georgia congressional delegation members were joined at the Washington, D.C., event by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and other senior leaders from the Air Force, Brigadier General John Kubinec, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex and other Robins Air Force Base officials, as well as 21st Century Partnership members, community representatives and local elected officials from Warner Robins, Ga.

“I’m so glad to have so many stakeholders from Robins Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense come together to discuss the pertinent issues confronting our military and Robins Air Force Base in particular,” said Sen. Isakson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This installation delivers a huge benefit to our national security and to Middle Georgia, and I am committed to protecting both.”

“I’m constantly impressed by the significant impact Robins Air Force base has on our national security,” said Sen. David Perdue, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Robins is mission-ready and provides direct support to our women and men in uniform around the world. It is because of the hard work of many of the people at today’s event, the Warner Robins community, the base leaders, and our troops, that Robins remains a bastion of strength today. I’m committed to helping Robins carry on this legacy and meet our growing national security needs far into the future.”

“I’d like to thank Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Goldfein, Lt Gen Levy, Brig Gen Kubinec, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center Commander Col Drew, and JSTARS Active and Guard component commanders Col Bass and Col Grabowski, as well as 21st Century Partnership and the greater Warner Robins community for their continued support of Robins,” said Congressman Austin Scott, member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Robins Air Force Base is a boon to Middle Georgia, and I will continue to fight for their missions and the active duty and DOD civilians supported by the base.”

“With its logistical and maintenance facilities, Robins Air Force Base serves as an integral part of our national defense and a key part of the Middle Georgia community,” said Congressman Sanford Bishop. “Robins Air Force Base generates 56,000 area jobs, has an economic impact of $2.87 billion, and serves as home of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS). It is a multi-functional installation with the capacity to grow, and it has the backing of a strong defense community. I stand committed to ensuring this installation receives the resources it needs to thrive in today’s security environment.”

More than 100 participants were in attendance at the breakfast, including Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfien, Brigadier General John Kubinec, Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex Commander, Colonel Will Ball, former secretary of the U.S. Navy and member of the Governor’s Defense Initiative, Lieutenant General Lee Levy, Air Force Sustainment Center Commander at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla., Hap Arnold, Senior Research Analyst, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Shaw Blackmon, Georgia State Representative, District 146, Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms, Centerville Mayor John Harley, Dr. Todd Kinnebrew, Museum of Aviation Foundation Chairman, as well as representatives from Robins Regional Chamber, the Houston County Commission, the 21st Century Partnership and the American Federation of Government Employees Local Chapter 987.

Robins Air Force Base directly employs more than 23,600 people and contributes more than $2.87 billion to the Georgia economy annually. Robins Air Force Base and its community partners have focused on education in Middle Georgia to help shape Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) development throughout Georgia and the country.

The Georgia delegation has been fighting in particular for the JSTARS program at Robins Air Force Base. In September 2017, Isakson and Perdue led a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis with other members of the Georgia congressional delegation about their concerns regarding the Air Force’s position on the JSTARS program and to reiterate that Congress had repeatedly expressed its position on the program through its votes to extend the program and prevent the premature retirement of this aircraft.

The delegation offered amendments to maintain the E-8 JSTARS program in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and require the secretary of defense to meet certain requirements, should the Air Force decide to abandon the current JSTARS recapitalization plan. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act passed the U.S. Senate on Nov. 16, 2017. It provides the requested funding authorization and provisions to preserve the Georgia-based JSTARS mission, prevent the U.S. Air Force from retiring the program and require that it move forward with recapitalization of that critical intelligence platform. It is awaiting the president’s signature to become law.