Boise & Garden City

Bieter and Otter to stump for F-35 in nation’s capital

Boise Mayor David Bieter and Gov. Butch Otter are scheduled to attend a breakfast Wednesday in Washington, D.C., where Idaho political and professional leaders will discuss Gowen Field’s candidacy for a squadron of F-35 strike planes with Congressional leadership members.

During the same trip, Otter will meet with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, said Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary.

Bieter expects to leave Boise Tuesday and return Wednesday night, spokesman Mike Journee said Monday. His total city-borne cost for transportation, food and lodging is $1,162, according to city of Boise documents.

This trip is the latest piece of a broader effort to convince the U.S. Air Force to base a squadron of 18-24 F-35s at Gowen Field, the Idaho Air National Guard base that uses the Boise Airport’s runways. Local business leaders, including the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, as well as most local political leaders and all of Idaho’s Congressional delegation, have thrown their weight behind the mission of attracting an F-35 wing to Boise.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an agreement to pay Washington, D.C.-based consultant Kiley and Associates up to $100,000 to enhance Gowen Field’s candidacy for the F-35.

The Air Force announced in December that Gowen is one of five finalists for a National Guard F-35 mission. Boise’s four competitors are in Florida, Alabama, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Today, the only Guard base with an F-35 mission is in Burlington, Vermont.

Some people who live near the airport say the F-35’s noise would damage their quality of life. Local and state leaders worry that missing out on the F-35 could spell doom for the Idaho Guard’s flying mission. The Air Force plans to phase out the A-10, a squadron of which has been based at Gowen since the 1990s.

Losing the flying mission would set back the area’s economy, Idaho’s F-35 advocates say. A recent study calculated that the Air Guard accounts for $155 million of total economic output every year.

Furthermore, Idaho Guard leaders worry that moving the flying mission to Mountain Home Air Force Base, as the Air Force proposed three years ago, would make it harder to attract and keep reservists. Many of the reservists live in the Treasure Valley and have jobs and families here, so they might be less willing to stay in the Guard if it meant driving an hour farther to carry out their duties.