Task force set up to address Offutt runway...

Posted at 11:18 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 00:41:02-05

The 55th wing at Offutt Air Force base employs more than 5-thousand people, but it's 2-mile long runway is in terrible shape.

Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska three congressmen came together to announce a task force to fix the crumbling pavement.

Chipped concrete and cracks across the runway, as a result political leaders in Nebraska and Washington formed a task force to look at making permanent repairs so the 55th's wing misson stays at Offutt.

"Coordinate our efforts to make sure we can continue to get the investment we need to the base and runway so we can continue that mission that is important to our national defense," said Governor Pete Ricketts.

Ricketts said Offutt is vital to the state, it pumps more than a billion dollars into the local economy. It also provides more than 10-thousand jobs, over half of those strictly from the 55th wing.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry said the task force's job is to provide oversight and partnership with the defense department so this critical runway get fixed.

"The position that Offutt and strategic command have as an essential component of American security is very, I believe a very high priority for the defense department," said Fortenberry.

Fortenberry said design plans are already in place, which he hopes is a sign the Pentagon will pay for this massive project.

"When you have a design contract it is a very strong indicator that that has a high-priority in the Air Force's budget for construction," said Fortenberry.

That design process will take $7.5 million dollars in itself. Fortenberry said the question remains whether the entire runway will be replaced or just parts of it.

Congressman Brad Ashford said he and his fellow Nebraska congressman are working together almost daily on the runway issue.

"It is critical to the mission  as we move forward as a member of the armed services committee that our intelligence efforts be supported as they are at Offutt," said Ashford.

Congressman Fortenberry hopes a decision comes this year, and repairs can begin in 2017 or 2018. The total cost could add up to $125 million dollars.

Both Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Ben Sasse also support fixing the runway.