Filling the Bathtub and Beyond?

The Air Force would require an investment of $45.2 million annually starting in Fiscal 2012 to maintain the viability of Grand Forks as the potential home to the future KC-X tanker aircraft or another flying mission once the base’s KC-135s depart for good, according to a report that USAF sent to Congress earlier this month. To preserve this option and defray the base’s operating costs, the Air Force said it is mulling ideas such as placing underutilized space in caretaker status, promoting short-term leases as a revenue stream, or even demolishing unusable space. Grand Forks is losing its KC-135s by the end of 2010 courtesy of BRAC 2005. The base is already slated to take on a new mission next decade in the form of RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle operations (and the state’s Air National Guard will also operate MQ-1 Predator UAVs from Grand Forks), but the change will result in a net loss of about 200 airmen, the Air Force said. To mitigate the period during which the base experiences personnel reductions—the so-called “bathtub effect”—North Dakota’s Congressional delegation (Democrats Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. Byron Dorgan, and Rep. Earl Pomeroy) is keenly interested in attracting additional missions, in particular the KC-X, to Grand Forks. (For more, see the delegation’s joint release and Conrad’s own release.)