Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, Kansas has a long and remarkable history of supporting our Nation's aviation industry both commercially and in support of our Nation's men and women in uniform. In Kansas, roughly 40,000 citizens support approximately 270 aviation and aerospace companies and generate nearly $2.9 billion in exports annually from our State. Many of those workers live in Wichita, which has long been known as the air capital of the world. Not only do these workers contribute to the vitality of our State's economy, but they also strengthen our Nation's economy, and they certainly contribute to our Nation's defense.

At both McConnell Air Force Base and Forbes Field, in Topeka, members of the Active, Reserve, and the National Guard serve our country through a variety of missions. Since 1941, McConnell Air Force Base has been an instrumental part of the Wichita community, and Kansans have a proud history of standing behind the air men and women who have called McConnell home. McConnell Air Force Base employs more than 17,000 people, military and civilian, and last year it had an overall impact of more than $520 million on our local economy.

I have come to the floor today to outline my support, strong support, for McConnell Air Force Base as the best choice for our Nation's new tanker fleet, the KC-46A. Currently, the Air Force is considering McConnell for the first home--or main operating base 1--for the new tanker, which will be put into service in 2016. McConnell Air Force Base is our Nation's best choice.

McConnell already houses a total of 63 KC-135R tankers--48 assigned and manned, plus an additional 15 for global contingency purposes, making it by far the largest tanker presence in our country. In fact, McConnell is considered the supertanker base in the Air Force, with twice the number of tankers than any other base .

Looking at the geography of the United States, it is clear McConnell serves our country well in terms of air mobility. Strategically located in the Nation's heartland--equidistant from both coasts--McConnell's location is a great asset.

To this point, the 22nd Air Refueling Wing and the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell are frequently called upon for refueling missions, within a 1,000-mile ``service radius'' of the base , which further highlights the reliability of this location in the Midwest for domestic or overseas missions. One thousand nautical miles is a vast portion of the continental United States and includes hundreds of routes, military operating areas, and airspace reserved for various air missions.

McConnell supports all branches of the military and allied partners, refueling off of either coast and around the world every day. The Air Force has long taken advantage of the expansive airspace available over and around Kansas, so it would be natural for McConnell Air Force Base to continue its important air mobility missions with the KC-46As.

McConnell also has a clear advantage in personnel because it houses both Active and Reserve air men and women in the air mobility mission. The Air Force calls this arrangement a classic association, and McConnell is one of the only few bases in the country that can boast this level of coordination between the Active and Reserve in air mobility missions.

The 22nd and 931st are prime examples of Active and Reserve components working together, sharing capabilities, collocating in various facilities, integrating crews and providing global support to operational needs.

The 22nd and 931st have a tremendous history of conducting air mobility operations not only throughout the United States, but in places in Libya, Serbia, Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Air Force has indicated their strong preference for this arrangement as they choose the location for the first round of KC-46A tankers.

Another advantage McConnell boasts is a surrounding community that fully supports and embraces the air men and women and their families. Since 1960, an organization of area business leaders and residents called Friends of McConnell has supported the men and women of McConnell Air Force Base through a wide range of programs and special events on and off the base each year.

One of those programs, called the Honorary Commander Program, pairs up more than 30 squadron and group commanders with local civic leaders for 2 years to build meaningful relationships between civilian and military leadership. When I talk with the air men and women stationed at McConnell , they often tell me how much they have enjoyed the quality of life Wichita offers them and their families.

When it comes to Air Force air mobility missions, there are four components that make a mission successful: airmen, command and control, infrastructure, and equipment. McConnell Air Force Base not only has the extremely capable airmen of the 22nd and 931st, but it also has the proven command and control to handle a myriad of operational needs and a sprawling infrastructure with enormous capacity. In fact, McConnell will soon have the newest runway in the Air Force at a length of 12,000 feet, which more than exceeds the requirements of the first round of tankers.

By locating the new tankers at McConnell , the Air Force would have the strategic flexibility and capacity needed to carry out a variety of missions both at home and abroad. Now is the time for the Air Force to replace the aging KC-135Rs with the ``iron'' of KC-46As at McConnell Air Force Base .

The Air Force has made clear that the acquisition and recapitalization of the KC-46A is their top priority. Air Force Chief of Staff GEN Norton Schwartz said it best when he stated:

 The KC-46A tanker is a critical force multiplier and essential to the way this Nation fights its wars and provides humanitarian support around the globe.

I agree. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley while at the Farnborough airshow, and I emphasized personally the need to base KC-46A tankers at McConnell Air Force Base in order to meet this need for global mobility.

It is often said in the military that the difference between success and failure is logistics. McConnell Air Force Base offers the instrumental, logistical muscle that is vital to successful, strategic air power. Kansans have a long history of supporting air power and air mobility, and I know McConnell Air Force Base is the best choice for our Nation's new tanker fleet.

I am hopeful that Kansas air men and women will have the opportunity to continue their tradition of service in defending our Nation with this first round of KC-46As.