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Beale Air Force Base Global Hawk program not dead yet
There may still be air under the wings of the Global Hawk mission at Beale Air Force Base, after a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee voted to keep funding for the unmanned surveillance aircraft.
The House Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved fiscal 2013 spending last week with the inclusion of $133 million to maintain the Global Hawk, unlike a Senate appropriations bill passed earlier this year in which money for the aircraft was cut.
On Friday, the House Armed Services Committee approved the bill, which will now move to the full House for a vote.
Though the appropriations committee's press officer did not return a call seeking comment last week, some members of the committee are from districts where Global Hawks or their parts are built, suggesting economic considerations may have played a role.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said in a press release sent last week that he had worked to keep Global Hawk funding in the bill, but ultimately voted against the entire bill for other reasons.
He also supported an amendment requiring further study before transferring a variant version of the Global Hawk from Beale to Point Mugu Naval Station, but the amendment failed, according to his press release.
"While including some good provisions, overall this bill takes us in the wrong direction," he said in the release.
A spokesman for Beale said base staff can only watch and wait to see what Congress ultimately decides on the Global Hawk.
If the full House votes for the appropriations bills, differences such as the Global Hawk funding would have to be worked out in a conference committee.
"Congress is the one that approves or disapproves of specific defense spending," said Lt. Brian Wagner of Beale. "We're just awaiting headquarters direction based on whether the approval is there. If the money isn't there, it's isn't there, and if it is, it is."
However, a member of the Beale Liaison Committee said he's hopeful the base will at least get the funding to keep training airmen to use the Global Hawks, if not deploying them from the base.
"It's all still up in the air," said committee member Tony Bevacqua, an Air Force veteran who lives in Yuba City.
Losing people to serve the Global Hawk mission would be a blow, he said. But he is also hopeful talks on stationing an Air National Guard unit at Beale come to fruition, and possibly make up for any potential difference in personnel.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.