Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/06/1996 05:32 PM MLV
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS March 6, 1996 5:32 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Ivan Ivan, Co-Chair Representative Pete Kott, Co-Chair Representative Eldon Mulder, Vice Chair Representative Richard Foster Representative John Davies MEMBERS ABSENT Representative Gail Phillips Representative Ed Willis COMMITTEE CALENDAR BRIEFING: Lieutenant General Lawrence E. Boese, U.S.A.F. BRIEFING: Brigadier General Kenneth Taylor, Air National Guard *HOUSE BILL 496 "An Act relating to transportation of members of the Alaska National Guard by the Alaska marine highway system." - PASSED HB 496 OUT OF COMMITTEE (* First Public Hearing) PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 496 SHORT TITLE: FERRY TRANSPORTATION FOR NAT GUARD MEMBER SPONSOR(S): SP CMTE MILITARY & VETERANS AFFAIRS JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 02/12/96 2723 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 02/12/96 2723 (H) MLV, TRANSPORTATION 03/06/96 (H) MLV AT 5:00 PM CAPITOL 17 WITNESS REGISTER LIEUTENANT GENERAL LAWRENCE E. BOESE Commander, Alaskan Command Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Briefed the committee on the status of military operations in Alaska. BRIGADIER GENERAL KENNETH TAYLOR Assistant Director, Alaska Air National Guard P.O. Box 5800 Fort Richardson, Alaska 99505-5800 Telephone: (907) 428-6089 POSITION STATEMENT: Briefed the committee on the status of Alaska Air Guard operations. BRIAN C. SONNER, CAPTAIN UNITED STATES COAST GUARD 17th Coast Guard District Chief of Staff Commander (dcs) P.O. Box 25517 Juneau, Alaska 99802 Telephone: (907) 463-2025 POSITION STATEMENT: Briefed the committee on the status of United States Coast Guard operations in Alaska. SAM S. KITO, III Legislative Liaison\Special Assistant Department of Transportation and Public Facilities State of Alaska 3132 Channel Drive Juneau, Alaska 99801-7898 Telephone: (907) POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information on Fiscal Note for HB 496. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 96-3, SIDE A Number 0003 CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN IVAN called the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs meeting to order at 5:32 p.m. Members present at the call to order were Representatives Ivan, Mulder, Foster and Davies. Representatives Phillips and Willis were absent. Representative Kott arrived late. CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN welcomed General Boese. Number 0104 LIEUTENANT GENERAL LAWRENCE E. BOESE, Commander, Alaskan Command, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, thanked the chairman for the opportunity to brief the committee. He recognized the committee's support for the military in Alaska. He stated his focus in the briefing would be to explain what the armed forces in Alaska are involved with at present, and what plans are on the horizon. He stated a briefing book was provided to all committee members, containing facts and figures on the military in Alaska. Number 0289 GENERAL BOESE referred to the briefing book discussion of the changing role of the military in Alaska. Throughout the Cold War, Alaska's primary role was protecting the United States' northwestern border through air and land defense. Since 1990, the military in Alaska has made significant changes. General Boese explained that the Alaskan Region North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is still dedicated to maintaining air sovereignty and providing tactical warning and assessment of air attack. Number 0420 GENERAL BOESE explained that, as the mission has changed over the past five years, so have the military's assets in Alaska. As Commander of Alaskan Command, General Boese reports to Admiral Greer, Commander of Pacific Forces. Under the Alaskan Command, there are three components--air, land, and sea. General Boese stated his primary responsibility is to support deploying forces and forces passing through Alaska. He emphasized the strategic importance of the state of Alaska. In the event of any major contingency in the Pacific, the Alaskan Command would be an extremely important aspect of the Tanker/Airlift Bridge. Number 0653 GENERAL BOESE further explained that disaster relief is another important function of the Alaskan Command. He added that a new mission of the Alaskan Command is to support contingencies anywhere in the Pacific. The final mission of the Alaskan Command is to conduct joint training exercises. Number 0653 GENERAL BOESE went on to explain the fort structure of the armed forces within the state. Fort Richardson and Fort Wainwright are fully operational. He stated that Fort Greely will remain as is until the year 2000. At that time, they will reduce forces, but the base will be maintained in "warm storage." The base will still be needed for conducting training exercises and other operations. This is very similar to the status of Galena, King Salmon, and Eareckson today. As far as the Air Force is concerned, he does not expect the structure to change. He said he expects no changes to Coast Guard facilities in Juneau and Kodiak. Number 0776 GENERAL BOESE stated the Navy will pull out of Adak in January, 1998. He stated he understands this will present a challenge to the state. In terms of radar facilities, he expects no changes to the present status. GENERAL BOESE went on to discuss changes in the Alaskan military since the Cold War ended. There has been a decrease in spending from $78 million to about $30 million annually. He reiterated the Alaskan Command's importance, in terms of strategic location, combat ready forces, unique training opportunities, and support to the state. General Boese used a polar projection map to illustrate Alaska's strategic location, which affords rapid deployment both to Pacific and European theaters. Number 0937 GENERAL BOESE emphasized the importance of Alaska's combat ready forces. He explained that training opportunities within the state are second to none and are utilized by forces from all over the globe. In terms of support to the state, General Boese explained the Army had recently provided helicopter support for flood relief on the Yukon when the National Guard was unable to respond. He stated that Search and Rescue missions average one life saved per day. Number 1112 GENERAL BOESE then discussed Operation TEMPO. He stated that in 1996, the Alaskan Command will conduct 44 deployments in 25 foreign countries. Number 1205 GENERAL BOESE stated he would brief the committee on ongoing activities. These include readiness, quality of life, environmental, and state support. He described the COPE THUNDER operation conducted at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks. This is a world class training exercise. Forces from Great Britain, Japan, and Canada will participate this year, in addition to Alaskan forces. The exercise is conducted four times each year. Number 1316 GENERAL BOESE then described the NORTHERN EDGE exercise, which is the primary joint exercise, conducted yearly. The purpose is to conduct joint training for Alaskan forces and to bring in outside forces for training. Number 1387 GENERAL BOESE mentioned concerns that have been expressed about Eareckson, Galena, and King Salmon. He explained the infrastructure of these bases will be maintained so they can be used if the need arises. In this regard, $5.7 million has been budgeted for repair and improvement of the King Salmon runway. This runway is used for civilian operations as well. He expressed confidence that this budget request would be approved. Number 1450 GENERAL BOESE then discussed the Department of Defense/ Veteran's Hospital which is now under construction at Elmendorf Air Force Base. The hospital is expected to open in 1998. He explained that Basset Army Hospital at Fort Wainwright needs to be replaced, and this is now in the planning stages. Number 1541 GENERAL BOESE stated that housing is his number one people concern at the present time. At Elmendorf Air Force Base, there is a shortage of 1,000 units. The military is working on privatization efforts for construction of housing. Number 1611 GENERAL BOESE then discussed environmental concerns. At the King Salmon Barrel Bluffs site, a soil cap will be placed over the site, and it will be monitored. He mentioned the problem with the Government Hill Defense Fuel Support Point, near Anchorage, which has resulted from urbanization of the area. The military is studying alternative storage sites. He stated that another environmental concern is the landfill at the City of Galena, which must be closed by October, 1998. The military has worked with the community to arrive at a solution. Number 1772 GENERAL BOESE went on to discuss the Coast Guard's new system for accessing the Rescue Coordination Center by cellular phone. This makes it much easier for people to contact the center in the event of emergency. Number 1826 GENERAL BOESE then explained that the Army Confinement Center at Fort Richardson is under utilized. He stated the military has offered the use of this facility to the state. Number 1855 GENERAL BOESE then described upcoming events within the state. At Seward, a new recreation camp is being constructed. A grand opening will be held in May or June. He also said a Ribbon Breaking Ceremony will be held at Elmendorf this summer on a new Joint Mobility Complex. He explained that this new complex will support deployment. He further stated that on July 27, at Eielson Air Force Base, a naming ceremony will be held for a new B-2 aircraft, the "Spirit of Alaska." Number 2000 GENERAL BOESE then discussed areas where the military is asking for help from the legislature. The first concerned the Alaska National Guard. He stated the Alaska Air Guard is in good shape, but the Alaska Army Guard has battalions (such as the Scouts) which are questionable for utilization outside Alaska. Therefore, the military has identified sensitive areas within Alaska which the Alaska Army Guard could be assigned to protect. He reiterated that the Alaska Army Guard is in a period of transition and asked the for legislature's understanding. He further stated there is an excellent relationship between the active forces and the National Guard in Alaska. Number 2154 GENERAL BOESE then commended the legislature's 1994 proclamation in support of the Military Operating Airspace Environmental Impact Study (MOA EIS). He stated that once the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Airspace Assessment is favorably concluded, the agreement can be signed. He stated the success of this project was due to a willingness to listen and make adjustments, on the part of both military and civilians. He then discussed the Civil/Military Working Group which meets in Fairbanks and Anchorage. He explained the airspace agreement is essential for conducting major joint exercises, such as Cope Thunder. He stated he is confident the FAA will give approval. Number 2240 GENERAL BOESE then discussed the military schools transfer project. Once on-base schools are renovated to state standards, their ownership can be transferred to local school districts. He explained the military had needed money for renovation, and for construction of a new school at Eielson Air Force Base, which the legislature provided in 1995. He stated the military will not ask for any additional money for schools this year. Number 2319 GENERAL BOESE then mentioned the Legislative Proclamation regarding Yukla 27 and the tragic loss of AWACS. He stated the proclamation had been read at a national prayer luncheon, and was greatly appreciated by the Elmendorf community. Number 2430 GENERAL BOESE reiterated the importance and relevance of military forces in Alaska. He emphasized that the military in Alaska can not afford to be satisfied with the status quo. He stated that state support is important, and expressed his appreciation for the state's support of military operations. Tape 96-3, Side B GENERAL BOESE then invited questions from the committee. Number 0027 REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD FOSTER asked about deficit family units. If housing is not available on base, where do families stay? GENERAL BOESE replied that they have a difficult time, and often must live far from the base. Either families pay more than they can really afford, or accept substandard housing. The problem is due to insufficient housing available on base. He reiterated his belief that privatization is the answer. Number 0134 REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER asked about the status of 801 housing at Fort Wainwright, in Fairbanks. He wanted to know if this would be a joint effort between the state and federal government. GENERAL BOESE responded that the organization building the housing would receive the housing allowance of the occupant. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that perhaps a program along the lines of AHFC would work in this regard. GENERAL BOESE reiterated that privatization has many advantages, and that the military is working on this area. Number 0241 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER mentioned the situation at Adak, especially with respect to creating a receiving authority. GENERAL BOESE explained that timing would be the real challenge. He stated that Adak has good facilities and a strategic location, but a focal point for development needs to be found. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that a receiving entity must be created within the next five years, so that the transition can be made from military post to private community. GENERAL BOESE emphasized that the facilities at Adak will deteriorate quickly if not maintained. Number 303 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if the pull-out from Adak was definitely scheduled for January 1, 1998. GENERAL BOESE replied that date was correct. CO-CHAIRMAN PETE KOTT joined the meeting and was introduced by Chairman Ivan. Number 0334 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES mentioned his appreciation for the military's response to the flood situation in the Fairbanks area. He said that he had reviewed military response to the 1964 earthquake, and that the people of the state have an enduring debt to the military. GENERAL BOESE responded that he feels comfortable in dealing with the legislature and the governor, which greatly facilitates communications. Number 0423 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES also mentioned the housing privatization issue. He stated that when he was a member of the Fairbanks' City Assembly, they had provided a five year tax holiday for construction of military housing. He then asked if there would be money earmarked in FY 97 for planning of the Basset Army Hospital renovation. GENERAL BOESE replied that he didn't know. He stated that the site has already been identified, and that money is now needed for design and planning. Number 0499 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES mentioned the airspace EIS and the issues raised by the civilian aviation community. He stated he appreciated the military's efforts in this regard. GENERAL BOESE responded that he feels there is a good relationship with the civilian community. When the military feels that readiness is being affected, the civilian community has always been willing to respond. He stated the recommendation is the preferred environmental option. Approval of this option is crucial for the continued operation of Cope Thunder. Number 0624 CO-CHAIR IVAN thanked Lt. General Boese for his briefing. He then invited Brigadier General Kenneth Taylor to address the committee. BRIGADIER GENERAL KENNETH TAYLOR, Assistant Director, Alaska Air National Guard, reiterated that Alaska is fortunate to have the leadership of General Boese. Number 0777 GENERAL TAYLOR identified two major concerns of any military organization, readiness and capability. He stated he has worked hard to make the Alaska Air National Guard relevant. As the Army National Guard is redesigned to become more relevant, moral support from the legislature will be required. The state is responsible for maintaining facilities for the National Guard. Funding will be required to maintain and construct facilities for the Army National Guard. He emphasized that many armories in the state will require replacement within the next few years. He then invited questions from the committee. Number 0877 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER stated it was an honor to be briefed by General Boese, General Taylor, and Captain Sonner. Number 0942 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked what kinds of changes the state might expect with regard to future military operations. GENERAL BOESE responded the biggest change would be with regard to the Alaska Army National Guard. He stated the United States Army requires combat service support, which is something the Alaska Army National Guard can provide. One example is a unit designed to prepare cargo for aerial delivery. Number 1089 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that the closure of bases around the world might be viewed as an opportunity to bring new forces to Alaska. He asked if General Boese could see any opportunities in that regard. GENERAL BOESE replied that he knew of nothing specific, but he believed there were opportunities. He stated that the facilities in Alaska could support additional forces. For instance, if a decision were made to pull back from bases in Japan, Alaska would be an attractive alternative. In this regard, the Alaskan Command is working to upgrade the C-130 aircraft operations and maintenance facility at Elmendorf. He emphasized the Alaskan Command is positioning itself to be ready to receive additional forces, should the need arise. GENERAL TAYLOR stated that opportunities for growth also exist in the Alaska Air National Guard. He explained that growth would not be dramatic, but would continue. Number 1360 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT asked General Taylor about recruiting efforts in the Interior. GENERAL TAYLOR responded that efforts were going well in the Interior. In Anchorage, however, the unit is just under 90 percent manned, which is unsatisfactory. He stated the guard is working hard on that. CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN thanked General Taylor for addressing the committee. HB 496 - FERRY TRANSPORTATION FOR NAT GUARD MEMBER Number 1450 CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN announced the next item on the agenda was HOUSE BILL 496, "An Act relating to transportation of members of the Alaska National Guard by the Alaska marine highway system." Number 1470 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT read the sponsor statement for HB 496, as follows: "Many potential recruits to the Alaska National Guard reside in isolated communities that are on the Alaska Marine Highway system. These individuals are not able to join the guard without paying their own fare to and from the drilling sites. As a result, guard recruitment in these communities is difficult. "This bill would permit guard members to travel to and from their drills without charge on the Alaska Marine Highway system, but only on a space available basis. These individuals perform great service to Alaska, for which they receive little compensation. It is not reasonable for the state to expect them to pay the prohibitively high costs of transportation in and out of their communities for what little they are paid. As a consequence, very few such individuals can afford to serve. The state, through the passage of this bill, would ameliorate this problem without incurring any additional expenses. Accordingly, your support is urged." Number 1579 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated a fiscal note was attached, and that the bill would have minimal financial impact. Number 1600 SAM S. KITO III, Legislative Liaison/Special Assistant, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, State of Alaska, stated he was present to address any questions regarding the fiscal note. He commented that the cost of the bill would be minimal. He noted, however, that there would be indirect costs associated with free passage on the marine highway system. He explained that the fiscal note also reflects these associated, indirect costs. Number 1661 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER moved that HB 496 with attached fiscal note be passed out of the committee. Number 1673 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES objected to moving the bill. He stated he thought the idea was a good one, but that he was concerned the marine highway system is being pushed to do more with less. He advocated including the funds in an appropriate budget. He also noted the same argument could be made for recruits living in rural Alaska. Number 1787 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER stated that since the fiscal note was only $1,000, he believed the committee should pass out the bill. CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN asked if there were any objections on the motion to move the bill with attached fiscal note. Number 1286 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stated he objected to moving the bill. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT concurred with the objection. He stated various agencies are being asked to do more with less. He noted the importance of recruiting is certainly worth the money involved, and advocated putting $5,000 into the budget to provide travel reimbursement for recruits. Number 1972 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER agreed with Representative Kott. He stated he would make a motion to amend the bill when it comes before the Finance Committee. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES withdrew his objection. CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN stated, there being no further objections, HB 496 with attached fiscal notes was passed out of the House Special Committee on Military & Vetarans Affairs. Number 2058 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER asked for comments from Captain Sonner. CAPTAIN BRIAN C. SONNER, 17TH COAST GUARD DISTRICT CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD, thanked the committee for the opportunity to comment. He mentioned the restraints imposed by shrinking budgets. He stated that in Alaska the impact has been minimal. He explained the Juneau office has undergone an extensive reorganization to maximize efficiency. He invited questions from the committee. Number 2200 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER asked about the Coast Guard's zero tolerance policy with regard to search and seizure. He mentioned an incident in the Aleutians in which a boat was impounded because of a crew member's infraction. CAPTAIN SONNER responded that the zero tolerance policy is no longer being enforced because it is unrealistic in that environment. He stated that owners cannot be held liable for a crew member's possession of personal use marijuana on board a commercial vessel. He noted that there is, however, random drug testing of licensed personnel in the maritime environment. Number 2390 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER asked if random testing involved 100 percent of personnel. CAPTAIN SONNER replied that random testing has had the desired impact, in that the number of positive results has become infinitesimal. All personnel are tested periodically, on a random basis. Number 2390 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked about proposals to scale back the presence of the Coast Guard in Alaska. Tape 96-4, Side A Number 0119 CAPTAIN SONNER responded that there was no national intent to do so. He explained that the Coast Guard is working on its satellite navigation system throughout the state, and that as that system matures, (gap due to changing tape). Number 0119 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked about the Loran site on the Pribilofs, at St. Paul. Is the site still actively manned? CAPTAIN SONNER stated that all Coast Guard stations in the state are still actively manned. He explained that Fort Clarence is the most sophisticated in terms of infrastructure. He stated that a number of years ago, the Coast Guard went to a minimally manned concept, but that the St. Paul station is still actively manned. Number 0148 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER mentioned the high morale at Fort Clarence. CAPTAIN SONNER stated that in the past, the majority of the Coast Guard's resources were applied to search and rescue operations. Now, the emphasis has shifted to environmental protection and marine safety. The search and rescue component, however, remains the primary mission. The marine safety emphasis has made a substantial difference in saving lives. For example, in terms of fishing vessel safety, the average number of deaths per year has recently declined from 38 to about 13. He stated this is largely the result of Coast Guard initiatives and enforcement efforts. Number 0339 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if the Coast Guard desired to maintain a presence at Adak. CAPTAIN SONNER responded that they definitely do. For instance, Coast Guard cutters working in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska would prefer to go to Adak. The Coast Guard has provided information to the state in this regard. He explained that continued flexibility is an operational necessity, especially since airstrips are not always open due to weather. For that reason, access to Adak remains important. Number 0438 ADJOURNMENT There being no further business to come before the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN adjourned the meeting at 7:10 p.m.